Food can be friend or foe. It will either give you life OR strip away life. In that second case, your food could be KILLING you.
Especially if your food is dead. And If your food is already dead when you eat it, know that, “You are what you eat.” for Me? I’m just naturally sweet.
So we must learn how to harness the power of living food. Food can either act as a dull blade that slowly shreds us apart from the inside, OR we can choose to realize the healing powers of food by understanding the complex life within us.
As hosts to trillions of bacteria within each of us, the food we eat directly contributes to the microbial balance within. Tell me, if you were a guest in someone’s home, would you choose to stay with a Homer Simpson or at a Five Star Resort Hotel?
If Homer Simpson were a real person, his chronic alcohol consumption would make for poor digestion, zero immunity, and lots of constipation. The beneficial bacteria simply couldn’t handle the stress, thereby giving in to more detrimental bacteria and yeasts in his gut. For him, contact with swine flu would almost result in 100% rate of getting it, since he has no defense system.
Pause for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of a little microbe searching for a nice place to stay…instead of Homer, wouldn’t you rather reside inside a Five Star Resort Hotel?
It is key to consume living foods and supplement with probiotic supplements.
The point is that we can ALL realize the benefits of a healthy microbial habitat within us. So continue readng on…
Below is a guide to my favorite probiotic foods and supplements for overall health and microbial balance.
+++++ PROBIOTIC FOODS +++++
Originating from the Caucasus Mountains, this probiotic gem was once an exclusive secret among small populations living in the area between Russia and Georgia. Traditionally, it was known for prolonging the shelf life of milk since refrigerators did not exist, but the benefits are far greater than milk storage alone.
Communities that used Kefir “grains” to ferment their milk would live incredibly long lives, even in today’s standards! The local populations believed Kefir to be a gift from god and therefore guarded their secret from the outside world. But something so good…could not stay secret for long…
By the very early 1900’s, the Russian Physicians Society was determined to attain Kefir grains for the benefits of their patients. They enlisted the help of a local cheese manufacturer, enticing them with exclusive priviledges to Kefir production. The cheese manufacturers sent an attractive, young employee named Irina Sakharova to…persuade…a regional prince to give her the Kefir grains.
The prince became infatuated, but would not break religious belief by giving away precious grains. Yet he must have been lovestruck since he tried to force Irina Sakharova into marriage instead! The Russians sent in a rescue party and with the help of the Tsar, Irina Sakharova was rewarded with ten pounds of Kefir grains to bring home for all of her troubles.
A hundred years later, from those particular grains are where the majority of the Western world’s now originate, even my own.
Kefir (Kee-Fur), the drink: A fermented milk beverage containing extremely high levels of lactic acid probiotics, beneficial yeasts, and essential amino acids.
Kefir tops my list of probiotic foods for real and practical reasons.
- Billions of beneficial probiotics, and I do mean BILLIONS.
- Very healthy, whole food containing vitamins, minerals, and protein for immunity and health.
- Easily digestible, particularly for those with lactose intolerance since the lactose has already been digested during the fermentation process.
- Affordable! Initial investment for Kefir grains is FREE if you ask me for some. Otherwise you can buy REAL Kefir grains online for under 10 dollars.
- Cheap! After initial investment, all you have to buy is milk.
- Easy to make!
- 1. Put Kefir grains in a glass jar.
- 2. Pour milk into jar and cover it.
- 3. Let it sit for 24-48 hours at room temperature.
- 4. Once finished (or at desired state), strain the Kefir liquid from the grains.
- 5. Enjoy your drink and repeat the fermentation process.
- All milk works! My best Kefir has been from Raw Cow Milk so far, and you can even use pasteurized 2% if you want (but I don’t know why you would want to…)
- Improves digestion of dairy, reduces bloating, increased immune system, antioxidant, antifungal, colon health, Crohn’s, reduced diarrhea (especially with antibiotic use), aids eczema, kills warts, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, helps with irritable bowel syndrome, and improves overall nutrient absorption.
- Body composition: Improves leanness.
- Improved athletic performance
- Drink the REAL Kefir, I know I…feel the difference.
- Tastes sour like plain yogurt, which some people don’t find palatable.
- Requires that you actually care (at least a little) for your Kefir, so you can’t be (too) lazy with it.
- NOTE: Store bought Kefir is not made from REAL Kefir grains, instead they use starter cultures derived from Kefir. Moreover, it is usually processed for “safety” and not nearly as nutritious as home made Kefir.
2. Sauerkraut, Kimchee, Fermented Cabbage
As a highly nutrient dense food, the fermented cabbage family comes in at Number 2 on this list for overall nutritious and probiotic value. Sauerkraut begins by using the natural enzymes and bacteria from cabbage and ends after about five weeks of fermentation. The microbial content of the cabbage changes as it goes through the fermentation process and the final product is a food high in lactic acid probiotics.
Real sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods available, but make sure you only buy the refrigerated kind — since it is still a living food. I rate this food very high because cabbage is already highly nutritious in vitamins and minerals, but along with the beneficial bacteria it really does become a Super Food.
We all find our own ways to enjoy food, or rather…to stomach the taste. Do what you gotta do, it’s an investment in your health.
- Excellent food source of beneficial bacteria
- High in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C
- Contains cancer fighting agents
- Some say it works better than viagra for sexual function
- Flu prevention, helpful for nearly all gastrointestinal conditions, bronchitis, respiratory disorders, and anemia.
- Wonderful cure for hangovers
- Good energy source
- All the benefits of probiotics: improved digestion, greater immunity, colon health, reduced diarrhea, etc
- For some of us, we really have to learn to love it.
- 5 week fermented period can make it more difficult to make at home
- Raw sauerkraut is more expensive than the typical stuff you see in stores — you may need to buy this at a speciality health store.
3. Fermented Soy Family: Natto, Tempeh, Miso
Since most of my readers are from the US, many of us aren’t exposed to fermented soy as regularly as populations in Japan. This is truly unfortunate because fermented soy is a particularly functional food with plenty of beneficial bacteria, immune boosters, and protein.
Soy itself has a whole range of health benefits, some would go so far to say that Japanese health in general is boosted by the relatively high consumption of soy products. Fermented soy will contain many of the great benefits of regular soy, but with loads of beneficial bacteria. Moreover, the protein in soy actually becomes more digestible due to the fermentation process — that means more essential amino acids to fuel your healthy life!
- Easily digested, high in protein source.
- Greatly reduced gas and indigestion
- Tempeh high in compounds producing Vitamin B12
- Miso used to help with radiation sickness, particularly after the US atomic bombing of Japan in WWII
- Natto is scientifically backed by research suggesting that it reduces likelihood of blood clots, which could literally save your life if you had a heart attack.
- Natto is VERY high in Vitamin K, which aids calcium in promoting bone health
- Fermented soy contains Vitamin PQQ which is necessary for skin health (for beauty or otherwise…)
- May have cholesterol lowering effects
- Natural source of daidzein, genistein, isoflavone, phytoestrogen, and the chemical element selenium, which some claim to be cancer fighters.
- Has antibiotic effect, traditionally used by Japanese Imperial Navy to treat dysentery.
- Overall immune booster, very healthy LIVING food.
- These foods in natural form are limited in the US.
- Try stores like Uwajimaya for these products.
- As always, the healthiest forms will be fresh and home made, so get your cookbook out!
Loaded with antioxidants, beneficial acids and organisms, Kombucha Tea is truly a tonic for health and vitality. After drinking raw Kombucha, I feel energized and balanced with an optimistic state of mind. Despite being significantly lower in probiotic content than all of the above foods, Kombucha Tea is remains one of the best functional foods for vitality.
Kombucha “mothers” are actually symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts (similar to Kefir), and the real history of Kombucha is rather unknown. What we DO know is that Kombucha contains organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols that make your insides FEEL GOOD and give you energy. The beauty of Kombucha is that you can drink it at any time, with any other food and it will enhance the bioavailability of nutrients, reduce bloating, and settle your stomach. Try taking it after a big meal, you’ll feel better. Or drink some when you need energy to get through your day at work.
If that isn’t enough, Kombucha contains beneficial acids such as butyric acid, gluconic acid, glucuronic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, usnic acid, and a decent amount of the B-complex vitamins.
- Aids in digestion of foods, especially “sticky” grains like white rice and pasta.
- Gives you energy, vitality, makes you feel good, balanced.
- High in antioxidant contents
- About Two Billion probiotics per serving
- Helps with liver detoxification (hangover cure anyone?)
- Alleged benefits: Acne, Cancer treatment, Constipation, Fatigue, GI disorders, Headaches, Health maintenance, Hemorrhoids, HIV and AIDS, Hypertension, Immunostimulation, Stress
- Tastes GOOD!
- Unless you brew your own home Kombucha, this may not be affordable for most people since each bottle of G.T. Dave’s Kombucha will run you $3 a pop.
- Very acidic, so avoid keeping in your mouth as it can degrade teeth a little bit.
5. All other probiotic foods: Yogurt, probiotic enriched cottage cheese, pickled vegetables, soft aged cheese, and buttermilk.
You may wonder why Yogurt clumped down here at the lower part of the list, but understand that I am not discounting the benefits of yogurt. Most of you already are aware of the benefits of yogurt, particularly because it is the most commercially available source of probiotics on the market. Yogurt is good, keep eating it, just keep in mind there is more to living food than just yogurt.
Additionally, pickled vegetables are another great home made source of beneficial bacteria and you can find out how to do that with a simple use of google.
If you could eat at least one type of probiotic food per day, you are well on your way to health and longevity! So keep it up!
But for those days when you don’t have access to probiotic foods…
There is a solution…
+++ PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS +++
- Improve digestion and support immune system.
- Easy to consume, usually you just pop a pill
- “Shelf stable” supplements can be carried around in your bag: which are GREAT for traveling!
The story of Dr. Ohhira is one where determined intelligence meets a passion for health. Working from Japan, Dr. Ohhira holds degrees in agriculture and microbiology, and is internationally recognized as an expert on lactic acid bacteria. Dr. Ohhira has co-authored dozens of scientific papers on bacteria and is a leader in the field.
- Very high quality, containing multiple strains of probiotics
- Naturally occuring FOS (prebiotics which is food for probiotics)
- Small amount of vitamins and minerals
- Only probiotic supplement with E. Faecalis TH10
- E. Faecalis TH10 helps: Vaginal infections, Bone Health (increased mineral absorption), Yeast infections, Cavities & Gum Disease*, Colon health, Constipation, Chron’s, Diarrhea, Digestion, Eczema, Heart Health, Ulcers, Immune Support, Inflammation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and UTI’s.
- Shelf stable for YEARS!
- High price tag: costs on average $40-60 for a month supply
My Rating: 10/10
This is a natural dairy based probiotic that wins lots of points for actually being studied and proven in clinical trials. The main test was to see if patients in a Canadian hospital would experience less diarrhea than their placebo counterparts. IT WORKED! Patients using Bio-K+ had 50% reduced chance of diarrhea using the actual Bio-K product that you can buy in stores.
- 50 BILLION Probiotics per serving
- Backed by REAL clinical studies
- It actually works as it says it does
- Tastes kind of like Yogurt
- Contains the beneficial bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285 and L. casei
- Helps with: Allergies, Vaginal infections, Bone health, Yeast infections, Colon health, Chron’s, Diarrhea, Digestion, Bloating, Gas, Eczema, Heart health, Immunity, Inlammation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lactose Digestion, and Nutrient Absorption
- Must be refrigerated since it is a perishable product
- Expensive, will cost you over $3 per serving!
- Does NOT help with Urinary Tract Infections
My Rating: 8/10. It DEFINITELY works, but it’s expensive and perishable.
3. Any Reputable Supplement Brand
MOST brands contain the bacteria strains of Acidophilus and Bifidus because these are generally accepted probiotics. Most reputable brands will give you some GOOD benefit for immunity, and digestion.
Good Probiotic Brands:
- Enzymatic Therapy
- Nature’s Way
- etc. Do more research on unknown brands.
Bringing it all together…
We know now that our internal state affects nearly every aspect of wellbeing.
For optimal health, everything needs to be in balance… Hormones, adrenals, thyroid, nutrients, and much more. By keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in our system, we can live a greater quality of life by boosting immunity from disease, and allowing for optimal nutrient absorption from the rest of our food. Probiotics optimize some of the most importnat human functions.
We need to only re-align ourselves more along with nature to realize vitality and health. Overly processed foods are physically damaging, and therefore I believe emotionally damaging as well. Making home made Kefir is a way of interacting with billions of life forms in a positive symbiotic way. It’s quite like a, “I help you, you help me” sort of deal.
So I’ll ask you one more time…
If you were a microbe, would you prefer to stay with Homer Simpson, or take pleasure in a Five Star Resort with all of your happy friends?
Let’s be realistic. Maybe you can’t afford that Five Star Resort tomorrow (changes don’t happen overnight), but you can START by adding some form of probiotics, one day at a time.
Some Kefir here, miso there, and a whole lot of Kombucha.
My message to you and your flora: Live strong, and live well, together.