I was recently engaged in a conversation with a middle-aged lady who confided that she had spent a good portion of her hard-earned income on a whole slew of diet regimens, but they did little to help her lose that extra fat. Now she was buying yet another product that she hoped would help her easily slim down.
This last one she tried was a probiotic supplement. Although very expensive, she felt she had no other choice and decided to take them for a six-month period. Even on sale, they are $69 for a single bottle of 30 capsules. Purchasing six bottles at a time brings it down to $49 each, but that is still a total of $294!
At this point, I thought of how many jars of beet kvass, kefir, sauerkraut, and many other wonderful homemade probiotics I could make for nearly $300! In my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course), you could learn how to make all of that for a mere $20! Nevertheless, I listened to her reasoning. She was now into the third bottle and not seeing much improvement. Sad but true. (Personal note: I am not naming this company because we yet live in a free country. Like all of us, they have the right to make claims without someone destroying their reputation, and it may just have worked for others.)
The Sales Pitch
She was told, and I paraphrase: In order to lose weight, you need to have balanced hormones and good bacteria in your gut. Why do they say that? Because, they claim: If you have any gut issues, losing weight is a battle. Good gut bacteria will boost your metabolism, stabilize your immune system, and balance your hormones. They further advise: The best way to accomplish this feat is to take one capsule a day of the probiotic supplement. However, you must integrate dieting and exercises into your routine!
The problem with this last requirement is that those who want to lose weight rarely follow dieting and exercise of any kind. This seems to be the privilege of those who have already developed such good habits.
Now to really understand what you just read above, imagine if one pill a day of commercially made probiotics provides good gut bacteria and does everything they claim: 1) boost your metabolism; 2) stabilize your immune system; and 3) balance your hormones. If commercially made probiotics can do all that, imagine what real homemade probiotics could do? Allow me to introduce you to the ingredients in their recommended probiotic bacteria—and tell you how you can get these same probiotics from in fermented foods, and for much less money.
(Oh, and by the way, I really think it would take more than one probiotic pill a day to get those three supposed benefits, but it does make for a great sales pitch. Smile! I also might add that their supplements may have gone through a great deal of conversion in the process of being shipped in hot containers and stored improperly. Fermented foods do not have that issue.)
According to Merriam-Webster a probiotic is: “a microorganism (such as lactobacillus) that when consumed (as in a food or a dietary supplement) maintains or restores beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract.” Also: “a product or preparation that contains such microorganisms.”
Five Powerful Bacterium in Probiotic Foods
- Bacterium lactis: “Lactococcus lactis has been used for centuries in the fermentation of food, especially cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut and the like.”
- Bifidobacterium longum: “Bifidobacteria love fiber! As a result, eat foods rich in fiber to encourage their growth. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grains are good/excellent sources of fiber. For instance, 1 cup of cooked lentils provides a whopping 63% of your daily fiber needs!” This article also states that onions and garlic, as well as some other fruits and vegetables, contain prebiotics that help Bifidobacteria thrive.
- Lactobacillus paracasei: “Obviously, dairy foodsare the easiest and probably most rewarding way to go for Lactobacillus paracasei Their lactic acid producing potential makes them ideal as starter cultures in the fermentation process of yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk, as well as flavour enhancers for cheeses of the Gouda and Emmental variety, for instance.” Further, fermented vegetables are also a good source of Lactobacillus paracasei: “Green olives, pickles of all sorts, and sauerkraut are basically within our reach in every supermarket, with Asian dishes like Kombucha tea, tempeh (fermented soybeans), Umeboshi plums, and Kimchi becoming more popular in restaurants and food aisles alike. This probiotic boost is accompanied by a good amount of fibre—which is just as important for digestion – and a pleasant culinary experience too. In addition, subspecies from the Lactobacillus paracasei class can be encountered within sourdough bread, cured meats, red wine, and even some brands of dark chocolate.”
- Plantarum lactobacillus: “Found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, Lactobacillus plantarum is a strain of probiotic bacteria: a class of live microorganisms naturally present in your intestines.”
- Bifidobacterium breve: “As a lactic acid bacterium, Bifidobacterium breve can be more than a common occurrence in dairy products of all sorts. You will most likely come across different brands of natural yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk containing this probiotic.”
The above is the title of a powerful article from Ashley Darger at the website Peaceful Dumpling. This is a must-read story that I highly recommend to all of my readers! I quote from her article below:
“It started with a New York Times article titled ‘The Hippies Have Won.’ The title served as vegan catnip for me, and I eagerly read the story that discussed the move of formerly ‘counterculture’ plant-based living into the mainstream (which is amazing news and the article is a fantastic and informative read). While celebrating the topics covered in the piece, my interest was piqued at the mention of the growing trend of making and consuming fermented foods because, due to new findings on the microbiome, ‘people are recognizing that this important biodiversity inside of us has been diminished and are seeking strategies to restore it for immune function, digestion, mental health and everything else.’”
My Personal Opinion on Weight Loss
As an avid fermenter for many years, I am of the simple opinion that probiotics may assist us in losing the extra pounds—when we eat them daily and at every meal. They may help empty the gut of waste our bodies store for days. Or, for some, even a week or more!
I believe this is due to one major fact: probiotics may be the only truly raw whole food that contains not only enzymes (which are in all raw foods) but also offers an added probiotic effect. Probiotics introduce microorganisms (such as lactobacillus) that help the body maintain or restore beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract. But this comes only by fermenting these raw foods.
The value of fermented foods is mostly in the lactic acid that they provide. Lactic acid feeds the intestinal flora and creates the correct pH environment in the gut. If you cannot see yourself eating fermented foods on a regular basis, I suggest taking Lactic Acid Yeast wafers as an easy, convenient way to feed your intestinal flora.
What an awesome transformation it is to turn milk into kefir, or cabbage into sauerkraut, or whole wheat flour into sourdough bread. However, there is a secret to share about fermented foods: eating them will cause you to, shall we say, poop more. (Smile) For people who have a super amount of extra pounds in their gut because they only poop every few days, this will comes as a surprise. (Also, laxatives do not work like fermented foods, and there are serious and addictive consequences for those who take them. You can learn more in my blog post “No Bile, No Poop!”)
I once read something about John Wayne after he died of stomach-related cancer. Supposedly, during the actor’s autopsy, over 20 pounds of rotting food was discovered in his gut. Whether this is true or not, I admit I don’t know. But it does go to show that all of us should be doing what we can to improve our own gut health.
Learn more with these fermentation resources and demonstrations:
- Buy my Cook Your Way to Wellness
- Look for fermentation videos at the Healthy Home Economist
- Join your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Meetings are held in every state in and overseas.
In closing, I hope I have not scared you—I hope rather that I have encouraged you to get to fermenting for the sake of your wonderful gut. It does so much for us; do just a little fermenting for it.
Disclaimer from Maria Atwood, CNHP: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP) not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor or health practitioner prior to following any recommendations I make in my blog posts or on my website.