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Probiotics 101 – Definition, History, and Correct Usage

What are probiotics?

The basic definition of a probiotic is a friendly microorganism (usually bacteria) found in the body. As 80% of our immune system is in the gut, most probiotic foods and supplements center on this area.

“There is a tendency to regard all micro organisms as harmful; to equate bacteria with germs. Nothing could be further from the truth. The number of non pathogenic species far exceeds the number of pathogenic species and many of the none pathogens are infact useful, even essential for the continued existence of life on earth. – Roy Fuller (Intestinal Microecology Consultant)”

The act of taking probiotics goes back thousands of years. Most major cultures have probiotics in their diets, even if they had no idea what they were. Look at these probiotic rich foods and the cultures that have eaten them in huge amounts every day.

  • Pickled Vegetables (Mesopotamia 2400BC) – Pickles is our oldest recorded knowledge of probiotics, although it is believed to have already been used in India long before this. It is even mentioned that “Cleopatra attributed her good looks to a hearty diet of pickles”
  • Kim che (Korea) – A common form of fermented cabbage. Do this yourself! Body Ecology has a great recipe here. Commercial Kim Che may not get you any benefit, read the ingredients and make sure it has not been cooked or sterilized in any way.
  • Sauerkraut (Germany) – Another fermented cabbage food, get your Culture starter and make this yourself.
  • Yogurt / Sour Milk / Buttermilk (Central Asia) – You won’t find the good stuff in a a local supermarket. This needs to be raw and unpasteurized to get the most benefit. Look for a local farmer or health food store.
  • Miso / Tempeh (Japan) – An excellent form of probiotics, but, good luck trying to find Organic Soybeans in America. Most Soy is now Genetically Modified and has been shown to harm gut flora.
  • Kefir (Caucasian Mountains) – This natural probiotic was a carefully guarded secret by the followers of Mohammed, giving them their “magic strength”.
  • Yogurt / Lassi (India) – Dating back from 1,000 BC from the foothills of the Himalayas, this “yogurt smoothie” was made with the finest of fruits spices.

Probiotics 101 is obviously just a “taste” of the many probiotics from around the world that have been used throughout history. Please give me some feedback on YOUR cultures probiotic, and where it came from.

What is old is new

It is no understatement that probiotics are literally the “new frontier” of health science, even with their long history. With research showing there are much more bacteria then cells in the body, it makes sense that they can have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing.

I believe that many of the health problems in westernized countries are the result of low probiotic count. Essentially the “bad” bacteria has taken over. This is a result of probiotics being taken out of our typical diet, while adding things grow yeast and fungus and kill off the “good bacteria”.

All probiotic supplements are not created equal

It is imperative that you start reading food labels (for all foods, not just probiotics). It is easy to see that you cannot trust the food companies to make healthy decisions for us. Just because someone wrote “probiotic” on the label, does not mean it is good for you. Most store bought yogurts are highly processed and full of sugar, or corn syrup (GMO). And even worse is LOW FAT yogurt which may contain Aspartame or Sucralose.

Please see my article When to Take Probiotics for more information on how to avoid killing your good bacteria, and the right kind of proboitics to take.

If you have any specific questions or comments regarding Probiotics 101, please give me feedback below.


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