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Healthy Living Probiotics Raw Dairy Real Food

The Amazing Health Benefits of Fermented & Cultured Beverages & Foods

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In modern society, one of the things we don’t do much of is eat real cultured and fermented foods. These foods have been staples of the human diet all over the world for thousands of years. Since the Industrial Revolution, the advent of packaging, processing, and convenience foods have seen the disappearance of these highly beneficial, nutrient-dense foods.

Throughout time, cultures all over the world have created cultured foods and beverages out of necessity. When a dairy cow produced a surplus of milk and all of it could not be consumed at once before spoilage, fermentation was born. Fermentation allowed the food to be preserved so it could be consumed later, and it was done simply by using the naturally-occurring healthy bacteria in the food.

Because this process improves nutrient content and increases the beneficial bacteria of the food, it is not only healthier but also made easier to digest. Other foods were produced in a similar manner such as kombucha (a feremented tea generated from a scoby or mushroom) or kvass using cultures, bread, and water. Kvass can also be made using vegetables such as beets. It was also customary to culture and ferment many of the vegetables people ate through lact0-fermentation with whey from dairy products or salt.

Today on the consumer market, you will find many foods and beverages which are labeled as healthy and full of nutrients. Because the bottom line in the consumer market is profit, over time the integrity of many of these traditional foods and drinks has been lost.

Even though the label claims otherwise, you will not in fact find dense, probiotic activity in a cup of commercial yogurt or non-dairy cultured foods like sauerkraut because of two main reasons:

  1. Commercial dairy is subject to pasteurization, which destroys and denatures probiotics, fats, proteins, enzymes, and other elements critical to creating a real probiotic food.
  2. Even though commercial companies add back in cultures to the food after pasteurization, the culturing process simply isn’t long enough to generate the diversity and numbers of beneficial bacteria which our bodies need for health.

Many other products are subjected to high-heat temperatures or pasteurization. By the time you open the bottle, package, or container, you are essentially eating a dead product with no live foundational enzymes, nutrients, or bacteria.

Sports and energy drinks like Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Red Bull, and Rockstar rely on caffeine, sugar, chemicals, artificial colors and flavorings to sell their product and make it “taste” appealing. Even higher-priced “professional” grade products such as Heed or Accelerade which contain synthetic vitamins and minerals or herbal ingredients are inferior because they lack the real nutrition found in long-fermented foods and beverages.

Most probiotic supplements on the market except for an exclusive small percentage do not contain the bacterial count listed on the label, and also have other undesirable ingredients which can be harmful to health.

Fermentation of real food uses either whey from dairy foods like milk, yogurt, or sour cream to produce a lacto-fermented food, a scoby culture or mushroom as when making kombucha, or preparing a brine with salt, or wine for culturing vegetables.

Here are just some of the many benefits of preparing and consuming cultured and fermented foods and beverages:
  • Improves or eliminates gastrointestinal issues such as heartburn, bloating, gas, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and constipation by eating a small serving with each meal.  Your overall diet, should of course exclude processed foods and incorporate real, whole foods with healthy fats and proteins, organic fruits, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Processed foods eaten on a regular greatly contribute to digestive problems and other health issues.
  • Deepens and broadens vitamins and nutrients like magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, B Vitamins, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, K1, and beta carotene. Fermented dairy imparts increased amounts of folic acid, pyroxidine, B vitamins, riboflavin and biotin, depending upon existing bacterial strains.
  • Raw fermented vegetables are useful in reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of degenerative disease like cancer.
  • Strengthens immune system function to stay healthy and avoid flu and colds.
  • Promotes weight loss.  In a study from 2008 at Stanford University, Dr. John Morton, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the medical school, showed that “patients who take probiotics after the gastric-bypass procedure tend to shed more pounds than those who don’t take the supplements.” Since supplements are usually much lower in bacterial counts than live cultured and fermented foods, it would be easy to conclude that higher bacterial counts would promote weight loss and the ability of the body to balance your normal weight.
  • Provides probiotic support to the digestive system. 85 percent of our immune system is located in the digestive tract, and having a proliferation and diversity of friendly bacteria is critical to immune health.
  • Reduces the proliferation of harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli, salmonella, and yeast or candida overgrowth
  • Fermenting sulphur-rich foods such as sauerkraut produces antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismustase, which remove free radical activity
  • Assists in breaking down difficult to digest lactose from dairy foods to create lactic acid, which is easier to digest
  • Although lactic acid fermentation does not necessarily raise mineral content, it lowers the effects of phytic acid found in grains, legumes, and vegetables. Phytic acid is a nutrient inhibitor which prevents absorption of minerals in the body. This process allows the body to absorb more minerals from grains, vegetables, and legumes.
  • Helps to pre-digest and allow for better absorption of nutrients
Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride who developed the GAPS diet, talks about the benefits of fermented foods in her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. I have been on GAPS since early May of 2011 and have found great improvements in my health as well as disappearance of problems that have bothered me my whole life such as anxiety and panic-symptoms.

Cultured dairy foods:

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These foods are in no way, shape, or form like what you will buy in the store.  With few exceptions, most commercial products are pasteurized which destroys enzymes, proteins, fats, and probiotics. These foods are also not cultured long enough to produce high numbers and diversity of necessary beneficial bacteria.

Cultured dairy foods you make at home from raw milk that comes from healthy cows on pasture are superior in every way in terms of quality and amount of diverse bacteria produced which our bodies need to support digestive, immune, and total health.

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream or creme fraiche

Cultured, dairy-free foods

Like commercial dairy products, most commercially produced sauerkraut, pickles, and other non-dairy foods you buy in the store have only been processed with vinegar as a base, and subjected to high-heat temperatures. This does not culture or ferment the food, but rather destroys enzymes and bacteria.

If you have issues with dairy, which are often caused by digestive compromise from poor lifestyle and diet, there are a variety of cultured and fermented foods which are highly beneficial in the process of healing the digestive tract. Consuming these foods can be integral in helping you to be able to once again digest real, raw dairy foods. Casein, a protein found in dairy, can irritate the digestive tract lining which has been compromised from poor diet and lifestyle, and which then penetrates the walls of the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream to cause super-immune response. This is why many individuals have “dairy allergies” or sensitivities when they consume dairy products.

Here are sources for buying culture starter for culturing your own vegetables as well as quality dairy cultures.
It is a great idea to make your own fermented vegetables and cultured dairy foods at home. If you find that you don’t have time for these preparations, here are a few good store brands which contain live probiotic bacteria:

More information: 

How to make sauerkraut
 -
with Wild Fermentation expert Sandor Ellix Katz
Time and money saving tips – getting the most of your vegetables  - with ideas for how to make your vegetables delicious and easy-to-digest by eating them with healthy fats and also some cultured vegetable recipes from Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions
This post is part of Sarah The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania Carnival
Healthy Living Raw Dairy Real Food

All Probiotics Are NOT Created Equal

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If you’re looking to be healthier and avoid the doctor’s office, eat foods naturally rich in probiotics like raw dairy such as fermented vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream and kefir.

It may also be important to find a good daily probiotic supplement to take if you have had health challenges for sometime and/or have been eating a diet with a lot of processed foods.

If you are not getting appropriate amounts of healthy bacteria along with proper diet, rest, and stress relief. your body is much more vulnerable to illness and chronic disease.

Your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. The most integral component of the immune system is healthy bacteria, or probiotics.

The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%.  Since we have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, this balance is actually quite challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet which consists of many processed foods that are devoid of nutrients, enzymes, and good bacteria.

Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. These living bacterial microorganisms are essential in assisting the body’s naturally occuring flora to repopulate themselves. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we seldom stop to think what those medications are actually doing to the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes any viruses as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain.

Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to avoid serious diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.

The best way to obtain probiotics from good, healthy sources is to eat or drink raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (not usually the store-bought variety – check labels as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay).

There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on preparing vegetables this way, read Getting the Most out of Your Vegetables. Read more about the lacto-fermenetation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress (sound familiar?).

The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these categories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and care must be used when choosing the appropriate type for your body. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a health care practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.

Where to find effective probiotics

Here is a list of superior probiotic products I’ve used and recommend to clients that will improve your health. It is important to determine that the product you are buying works because many probiotic supplement products on the market do not deliver the promises they claim on the label. And worse, some products are actually derived from toxic ingredients or include genetically-modified substances.

These are therapeutic, professional grade products. They cost more than many brands you will find in grocery or health food stores, but their potency is guaranteed and worth the money spent:

  • GUTPro – organically-produced probiotics, safe for GAPS, SCD, gluten-free, Body Ecology, and PANDAS, and those with autism.
  • GUTZyme – by same company that makes GUTPro, GUTZyme is a new product which contains Pepsin Plus Enzymes and HCL (hydrochloric acid) for better digestive support.
  • Enzyme Formulations – I have been using this product for almost a year, and it is excellent. It is in powder form which means it works fast, and contains over 20 billion count of various bacteria as shown on the label. It contains and you must have a relationship with a healthcare practitioner to buy this product. See this link to find a practitioner.
  • Prescript-Assist from SaferMedical. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results. This product is particularly useful for those taking antibiotics, or those who have been on long term doses of antibiotics. A soil-based probiotic/probiotic containing 30 plus soil based, pH-resistant micro flora.
  • Custom probiotics – powerful probiotics with a variety of product offerings, quality single and multi-strain Acidophilus and Bifidus dietary supplements, for children and adults.
  • Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.

A word about yogurt

Most grocery store yogurt falls short of delivering the health benefits we are told it does by health professionals. Even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package.

Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.

Here is a list of reasons why commercial yogurt falls short of good bacteria counts:

  1. 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. So instead of adding to the good bacteria, the sugar content is simply causing your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria.
  2. Many commercial yogurts are low-fat. You want full-fat yogurt to obtain the maximum probiotic benefit of the yogurt you eat. When fats are removed from foods, it lowers their total nutritional value since many of the available nutrients are in the fat (fat-soluble vitamins), and that will also diminish the probiotic activity of the yogurt since it is no longer a whole food.
  3. Store bought yogurt has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization kills most good bacteria, enzymes, and microbes, thus rendering the yogurt much less potent in good bacteria to help your digestive tract.
  4. Commercial yogurts are generally cultured for a fairly short period of time – usually less than 8 hours. Many times, the yogurt has had some type of thickening agent to give it the same consistency as real yogurt (horrors!). Home made yogurt usually has more probiotics, especially because you can culture it for as long as you want. It will also be more tart due to the lactic acid which means the bacteria counts are higher and more beneficial. Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride who wrote Gut and Psychology Syndrome suggests creating your own yogurt at home and fermenting for 24 hours. This uses up most of the lactose – a sugar which naturally occurs in milk – and allows for more cultures to be grown.
  5. When you make your own yogurt, you have complete control over the milk you use. The best type of milk to use is raw milk from a healthy source where cows are on pasture grazing, and no antibiotics, hormones, GMO feed, nor pesticide or herbicides are used.

Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health results are worth it. Here is a recipe for making homemade yogurt that leaves good bacteria intact.It’s really much easier than many people would imagine, can turn out exceptionally delicious, and the health benefits it confers are fantastic!

Remember that while commercial companies that sell yogurt and other products are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reliable companies working to improve people’s health and have used studies and research to back up their claims, while the others are not presenting the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products – nor the manner in which they are produced – and use marketing lingo to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should clearly reveal the quality of ingredients.

Resolution for allergies

Along with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, including foods and quality supplements with probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies of many kinds. A great deal of practitioners and individuals alike agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to greatly reducing and eliminating allergies.

Many people hold the belief that that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens”, but this is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always a weakened immune system. A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.

What are prebiotics?

A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:

  • raw dairy products from healthy cows on pasture
  • inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:

fruits – apples and bananas

sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks

raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and grapeseed oil

herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root

Additional reading on probiotics and prebiotics:

Body Ecology

The amazing health benefits of fermented & cultured beverages & foods