Dear Mark: Egg Replacements, Bruxism, Fermenting Frozen Veggies, and Ferments While Breastfeeding

raw chicken eggs on the kitchen table,For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions. First, I give a few options for recreating, or at least approximating the emulsification power of the mighty egg yolk for a reader who’s allergic (and give a quick preview of an upcoming Primal Kitchen product). Next, I explain why people with sleep apnea often grind their teeth, and mention an nutritional factor that might also cause grinding. Third, can you ferment frozen vegetables? Should you ferment frozen vegetables? And fourth, is fermented food safe while breastfeeding?

Let’s go:

I just took the plunge at New Year’s after following your blog for a while now. My question is that I’m allergic to eggs. I work around that for breakfast, but I’m wondering what to do about actual recipe substitutes when eggs are called for. What’s a good Primal option?

The most important part of the egg is the yolk, and the most important   culinary application of the yolk is emulsification. Egg yolks contain lecithin, an amphiphilic substance that attracts both water and fat, which allows emulsions to form. Luckily, there are others.

Lecithin from soy or sunflower oil works. And, like egg yolk, lecithin provides choline—that crucial vitamin we need for good liver health.

Mustard. A great salad dressing emulsifier is a teaspoon of dijon mustard whisked into the mix.

Garlic. Smash garlic into a paste, add some olive oil, and whisk it all together until it emulsifies. Unfortunately, the emulsion doesn’t last very long.

Black garlic. Black garlic is one my newest discoveries. The product of several weeks of slow and low heating, black garlic is exactly that: garlic with so thorough a Maillard reaction that it’s turned black as coal. Only instead of tasting like burnt garlic, black garlic tastes sweet, mild, and almost balsamic vinegar-esque. It’s also smooth and creamy, which makes it perfect for emulsions.

Except for the lecithin, none of those really work for mayo, though. You can make some delicious stuff, but mayo eludes. Luckily, in the coming weeks I’ll be releasing a brand-new Primal mayonnaise with a twist: It’s egg-free. It’s totally free of allergens, in fact. Stay tuned for that.

Curious to know Mark’s thoughts on bruxism, or teeth clenching / grinding. The newish school of thought is that it is a sign of sleep apnea. I can’t quite get my head around why clenching or grinding one’s teeth at night, especially to such an extent, would be a way to open up the airways.

Try it for yourself. Breathing normally with relaxed jaws, tilt your head back until your airway starts closing and your breath begins resembling a snore. Now clench. Bite down hard. Notice how much easier the breathing gets? You’ve just opened your airway back up.

Clenching may also indicate magnesium deficiency. As far back as the 1970s, clinicians have been reporting connections between magnesium levels and bruxism. One French doctor even found that magnesium supplementation “nearly always” resolved bruxism.

Hey there. I’d really like to try fermenting, but many vegetables I can’t buy fresh. Is it possible to ferment flash-frozen veggies (green beans for example). Will they still be as nutritive?

Also, I’m breastfeeding a newborn. Are ferments possibly dangerous in any way for my newborn?


Frozen vegetables don’t ferment really well for a couple reasons.

First, freezing bursts the cell walls of many vegetables. The water expands, rupturing the stability and integrity. I suppose the resultant mush could be fermented, but it wouldn’t be very appetizing.

Second, freezing kills or deactivates a lot of surface bacteria, which you need for proper ferments. Making sauerkraut out of cabbage, for example, utilizes the native bacteria present on the fresh leaves. Freezing cabbage would hamper the viability of the bacteria.

It’s probably possible to use a fermentation starter, like kraut juice, to ferment frozen veggies, but, again, it might get a little weird texture- and taste-wise.

The majority of probiotic/baby research focuses on probiotics in formula. We don’t have a ton of research on breastfeeding’s interaction with sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, pickles, or kombucha, but we do have a fair amount of research on supplemental probiotic usage—which is basically a more extreme, concentrated version of fermented food. If probiotics are safe and helpful, fermented food shouldn’t be a problem For the most part, fermented food is a safe addition to a nursing diet that could even be helpful.

When mothers supplement with probiotics while pregnant and breastfeeding, their breastfeeding babies have a lower risk of eczema. The effective combos include L. rhamnosus with B. longum and L. paracasei with B. longum. L. paracasei is found in most yogurts and L. rhamnosus and B. longum are found in most kefirs.

When mothers drink milk fermented with L casei (a strain found in most kefirs) while pregnant and breastfeeding, their nursing babies experience fewer GI disturbances.

It’s not only good for the baby drinking the milk. Probiotics may even help prevent mastitis, or infection of the milk ducts. Left untreated, mastitis can lead to terrible outcomes, like abscesses, impaired milk production, and even breast surgery. You don’t want to get it. In one study, taking probiotic bacteria isolated from breast milk actually outperformed antibiotics in the treatment of infectious mastitis. It also prevented the reoccurrence of mastitis, which is quite common. A later study using the same strain derived from breast milk—L. fermentum—found that it reduced breast pain during nursing (a potential harbinger of mastitis).

Any dangers? Maybe.

In a study of the diets of Japanese mothers and their effects on the women’s breastfeeding babies, researchers determined that yogurt, cheese, miso, bread, soy sauce, fermented soybeans, and tree nuts were common aggravators of atopic dermatitis in the kids. I’m not sure you can pin this on fermentation, however. It could be a dairy, soy, wheat, and nut protein issue, too.

Kombucha could be problematic. A kombucha SCOBY is by its very nature an unwieldy, diverse motley crew of competing interests maintaining a tenuous coalition just so long as there’s plenty of sugar for everyone. Don’t go drinking moldy kombucha. If you’re brewing it at home, be sure you know what you’re doing, how to distinguish between mold and normal growth. The longer it’s active on the same batch of tea, the higher the alcohol content. And black tea kombucha will contain some residual caffeine, which most people don’t want their babies consuming.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope these answers help, and if you have anything to add, do so down below!

Take care.


TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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30 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Egg Replacements, Bruxism, Fermenting Frozen Veggies, and Ferments While Breastfeeding”

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  1. People in other countries, such as Germany, have always made and eaten a lot of sauerkraut, and they’ve breastfeed a lot of babies. I don’t think it’s harmed any of them. The same would be true of kimchi. If anything, it would probably be beneficial if not carried to extremes.

    A wide variety of fresh vegetables are available almost everywhere these days, although they will be more expensive this time of year. Otherwise, one can usually find cabbage, carrots, and a few other staples. I agree with Mark that it would be best to stick with fermenting whatever fresh veggies you can get. I suspect frozen ones would just rot into a slimy disgusting mess.

  2. I love avocados! Unfortunately, for the last couple of months they have been horrible. What’s a good substitute to get me through my avo Armageddon? Thanks

    1. That’s a tough one! Avocados are so unique and can’t think of anything quite like them. I would say just some other good fats, like olives, good cheeses, kefir, nuts etc. Mark has a recipe in the original primal blueprint recipe book that uses dark chocolate, coconut oil and sea salt. That is a delicious snack with a lot of good fat!!

    1. The Mg actually worked for me! Good luck. Be careful of the Mg you take some of the suppliments are hard on your normal flora.

  3. Thanks so much for answering my questions! I’ll stick to ferments from the fresh produce I have available. I’m glad to know that they are suitable for breastfeeding my little one and can even be beneficial!

  4. I hope the new mayo being allergen free means it’s made without avocado oil. That would be fantastic! I’ve wanted a good mayo for so long but am allergic to avocado.

  5. I have had a sleep apnea machine for 3 years. In the last couple of dentist visits I’ve asked about a piece to help with clenching teeth. They are expensive and I wonder how good they are. I’m excited to learn about the magnesium and perhaps avoid the appliance. Thanks.

    1. They don’t make you stop grinding, they only protect the teeth. Not that’s it’s bad, you certainly should protect your teeth if you are a chronic grinder.

      1. As a dentist I wouldn’t recommend an NTI. They do work and are comfortable but in the long term result in an anterior open bite due to intrusion of the anterior teeth from the forces.

      2. As a dental hygienist I STRONGLY discourage the use of an NTI. The NTI is placed only between the front teeth. This puts way too much pressure on teeth that are only equipped for tearing food, and not the heavy stress of grinding/clenching! The excessive pressure from grinding with an NTI will most likely cause the teeth to fracture, or cause the front teeth to move outward creating what is called an open bite. An NTI maybe be easier to get used to wearing than a full mouth guard, however, it creates more problems than it solves. Do your teeth a favor and buy a full mouth guard! I would also recommend isometric exercises to relax the jaw, and seeing an orofacial myofunctional therapist. Best of luck.

    2. I say no, Pam. I had one and at first it helped, then I think I just clenched down on the mouth guard harder. I use relaxation techniques before I go to bed. I also switched pillows because I noticed the flatter my head lies the more relaxed my jaw is.

      I am going to try adding magnesium though. I hadn’t heard that one.

  6. Bruxism is really unpleasant. In the past I relied on muscle relaxants but now, I’m trying to avoid it and it’s really hard. I almost can’t sleep and I have tension headaches as bad as a migraine almost everyday. I already take plenty of magnesium, but I plan to take it before bed to see if it helps.

      1. That’s a good idea! Thanks! I went to see my chiropractor and I’m feeling a little better but I still definitely try that.

        1. Bruxism can sometimes be a result of physical dysfunction related to nerves and muscles. This type is treated by massage, osteopathic manipulations and exercises. Diet is not always the whole answer

    1. Magnesium alone won’t cut it for a problem of this degree. Get a sleep study and rule out sleep apnoea or upper airway resistance. Oil on the TMJs is useless the headaches would be coming from the activation of your temporalis and neck muscles.

    2. Thanks to everyone who gave me advice. I’m feeling better now. I had a filling who was too high and also a dying tooth. Both have been taken care of and it helped immensely.

  7. Wow, interesting questions (and answers…love how everyone has ideas!) I never heard the term Bruxism, although I know many people that grind their teeth at night. I like Natural Calm for my magnesium supplement. Taking it right before bed really seems to help me relax (maybe it’s just the power of suggestion, but I’m totally cool with that). I would think fermented veggies would be awesome for any pregnant woman. The only thing I’ve ever made is sauerkraut. It was wonderful, but lately I’ve been taking the easy way out and buying it from the same farmers I get my meat and eggs from. I’m not consistent with eating fermented stuff though…think that was one of Mark’s challenges that I should work on!

  8. Great tips, thanks for sharing Mark. Black garlic!? I’m going to have to try this! Val x

  9. LOVE black garlic – they used to sell it at my Trader Joes and I’d eat it plain – tastes like balsamic vinegar candy!

  10. “A kombucha SCOBY is by its very nature an unwieldy, diverse motley crew of competing interests maintaining a tenuous coalition just so long as there’s plenty of sugar for everyone.”

    Sounds like my last work place.

  11. You make kombucha brewing sound difficult and dangerous. It’s not; just takes a little practice. I made kefir and kombucha and much prefer the kombucha, dairy doesn’t seem to agree with me (autoimmune issues).

    As for bruxism – if only it were that easy to cure. You completely ignored psychological causes, eg domestic violence in the home where children are growing up. Even hypnotism may not help. It’s very difficult. And serious – it’s the cause of gum recession and eventual loss of teeth later in life. We need better information on this.

  12. “One French doctor even found that magnesium supplementation “nearly always” resolved bruxism.”

    Has anyone seen this to be effective when the symptoms occurs for people in treatment with SSRI medications?

  13. For me, bruxism is a symptom of anxiety. I always start grinding my teeth two weeks before Christmas and stop as soon as the holiday is past. It also happens at other times of the year when my baseline anxiety is high. Magnesium helps reduce my anxiety, but not nearly enough to stop the bruxism. I’ve damaged some teeth and now I use a bite guard whenever I sleep.

  14. I love your reply about fermenting frozen foods- so good and easy to understand! I would imagine even if the bacteria survived freezing, the fermented vegetables would be pretty mushy and unappealing. I’m not sure where the person asking the question lives, but they may be able to get a delivery service that can deliver fresh veggies, like Amazon. Growing them yourself is also another excellent option!