Probiotics, What Are They?


This recipe was taken from my book A Closer Look At Nutrition & Wellness – Handbook of Digestive Health for Well-being

Cultured Foods and Pro-Biotics            

 All disease begins in the gut.

~Hippocrates, father of medicine~

Cultured and Fermented Foods

Cultured and fermented foods are basically the same thing; they are food that has been preserved usually with salt or sugar, water or in its own juices, cultures or whey, and warmth. They are loaded with probiotics, so they are known as probiotic foods; these foods actively promote optimal health.

The most commonly known probiotic foods are yogurt, kefir, and pickles, but not the kind you buy in the store which have added harmful ingredients. The way to get full benefits and probiotics is by making your own at home or buy from a trusted source.

 History of Food Preservation

The origin of fermented foods and cultured milk products is said to go as far back as predated recorded history. Traditionally foods have been preserved by humans for upcoming seasons when the food they are preserving might not be available, such as long winter months when nourishing foods are needed.

Historically fermented and cultured foods have been part of every culture worldwide;

dairy -cheese, yogurt, whey, vegetables- sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, fruits- chutney.

Grains have been fermented to make bread, beans fermented for curds and meat and fish have also been fermented for preservation. Even fermented drinks, the most popular being yogurt, kefir, or kombucha tea.

 Probiotics-Friendly Bacteria or “Good Bacteria”                                                                  

Probiotic literally means “for life” and are beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive system, colon, urinary and genital organs. Probiotics are needed for maintaining a healthy immune and digestive system. When the digestive system (the gut) is properly working, this leads a straight clear path for great health.

Probiotics are essential for the body to help break down food by stimulating the natural digestive juices and enzymes, they help break down sugars and carbohydrates in foods to make them more digestible and enhance the absorption of nutrients in foods. Probiotics help to prevent or fight disease caused by unfriendly bacteria.

The process of fermentation or culturing foods creates probiotics and enhances nutrients to make them more available. For example, raw cabbage if loaded with vitamin C, but sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is 20 times higher in vitamin C.

 What Probiotics do?

  • Assists in the digestion of food
  • Assist in assimilation
  • Makes nutrients more available
  • Protects us against toxins
  • Helps stabilize a good mood
  • May prevent or help treat childhood respiratory infections
  • Helps in prevention of tooth decay

 Unfriendly Bacteria or “Bad Bugs”

Unfriendly bacteria release toxins that putrefy and ferment food in the intestines, the probiotics are needed to fight and rid the unfriendly bacteria from the body much like the same way anti biotic do, except the antibiotics kill all bacteria, good and bad.

 These dire and potentially life-threatening circumstances have prompted urgent research into the use of probiotic bacteria to battle infections. We now know that probiotics can raise antibody levels in the body. This immune-system boost reduces the risk of infections taking hold in the first place, thus avoiding the need for antibiotics. Many doctors recommend live yogurt for patients on antibiotics to replenish good bacteria and some argue that yogurt live cultures may also reduce the occurrence of colds, allergies and hay fever.

Bacteria Misunderstood

For years the medical establishment thought all bacteria were villainous and have had a bad reputation for being the cause of infections and disease; they were something to be avoided. The theory was, the human body is sterile and microbes attack it making us sick.

In recent years, researchers have studied the role of the 100 trillion good bacteria that live in and on the human body, and their positive effects proven on human health and wellbeing and a healthy human body lives in symbiotic relationship with microorganisms.

Many good and bad bacteria and other organisms live in the body naturally. No matter how much antibacterial soap or sanitizer you use, you will still have them; the only difference is when you sanitize everything, you are getting rid of your protectors as well.

The best way is through probiotic foods to fight from the inside out.

Kinds of Probiotic Bacteria

To keep it simple and just scratch the surface for a basic understanding, there are several different kinds of probiotics with different health benefits. The more common strand is Lactobacillus; it has various species including acidophilus and bifidobacteria. You may have seen any of those names on yogurt, on a pill bottle, or an advertisement.


Opposite of pro-biotic, the name “anti” means a negative against life. The job of antibiotics is to inhibit and destroy microorganisms, specifically bacteria (good and bad). Today there is an alarming appearance of disease-causing agents (viral, bacterial, etc.) that are resistant to antibiotics, due to overuse and unknowingly-over consumption in foods. Antibiotics are overly prescribed for infections including viral, when they do nothing for a viral infection.

Chances are you’ve taken antibiotics prescribed to you by your doctor, but did you know that if you consume dairy or meat, even seafood that is conventional or farm-raised, you are getting a regular dose of antibiotics. It is routine to give conventionally raised animals antibiotics because there is so much sickness as a result of farming methods. If the animals are raised in a natural environment, such as grazing on large green pasture and access to fresh water, or in the case of sea food, allowed to roam free in the ocean then wild caught, the use of antibiotics are not necessary.

To someone who does not understand the damage that antibiotics can do, they may think this is a good thing; regular antibiotics killing bugs=sanitary environment, sounds great. However, the bugs that the antibiotics are killing are necessary probiotic bacteria for your health and wellbeing as you will further understand from this lesson. As a result of use of antibiotics, stress, poor diet, too much sugar, or environmental toxins, an unhealthy or unbalanced digestive system may result and lead to major illnesses.

Health Benefits of Probiotics

Scientific research supports the possibility of using probiotics to prevent or treat many common conditions. An important reason to breast feed, and do so for as long as you can (preferably 2 years) is that breast milk is rich in nutritional benefits that promote the growth of bifidobacteria; a friendly strand of bacteria that keeps babies digestive systems healthy and disease-resistant. A healthy gut flora must be established at birth, so a pregnant woman should make sure she includes plenty of nourishing foods along with probiotics, even before planning a pregnancy, and continue during breastfeeding. This way your baby will be off to a great start!

What Probiotics Help Treat

  • Vaginal infections
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Bladder infections
  • Inflammation
  • Intestinal disorders; IBD-inflammatory bowel disease and IBS-irritable bowel syndrome
  • Improves allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Colic in babies
  • Helps in fighting h. Pilory; a disease that causes ulcers and restoring the gut flora.
  • Prevention of common cold
  • Prevention in repertory infections
  • Fever blisters
  • Acne
  • Helps stabilize high LDL(bad) cholesterol and raise the HDL (good)cholesterol
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lyme disease
  • Hives
  • Common cold and flu
  • Common signs of deficiency are digestive issues and reoccurring infections.

 Probiotic Food or Supplement?

It’s important to understand that probiotics from food are not a new concept. However, the pill form is. Eating cultured and fermented foods are far more beneficial and cost effective than using pill form. Dr. Natasha Campbell Author of GAPS says she had a team test fermented vegetables and found that one serving of cultured vegetables contained 10 trillion colony-forming units of bacteria, while pill form contains 10 billion, so in comparison, it was equal to 1 bottle of a probiotic supplement. Needless to say, probiotic food is the optimal choice.

 How much is needed daily?

At least 1 serving of a probiotic drink or food is necessary for the body, once you are used to it ½ -1 Cup is a good serving size. Some individuals eat a serving with each meal. You really have to find out what works best for you. Depending on which cultural food your family eats will depend on which probiotic you choose.

Sources of Natural Probiotics

It’s best to make your own at home, if you must buy already made, make sure you trust the source, such as a friend or a local farmer at the farmers market who uses organically grown vegetables and unrefined sea salt.

It’s a good idea to include a variety of cultured foods in your diet since the bacteria found in each probiotic food are not the same. Whichever you choose, make sure it is in a raw form even animal products such as dairy or meat, with the exception of soybeans.

There are plenty of options when it comes to cultured and fermented foods Here is a  compiled list (not limited) of various traditional cultured or fermented foods and beverages:

  • Natto, a traditional Japanese fermented soybeans
  • Kimchi, a traditional Korean cultured cabbage, ginger, carrot and a variety of ingredients.
  • Miso, a traditional Japanese paste made with fermented soybeans or other grains.
  • Tempeh, a traditional Indonesian dish that is made by fermenting soybeans
  • Fish Sauce
  • Sauerkraut, a western version of kimchi
  • Cortido,  a spicy South American sauerkraut
  • Pickled ginger
  • Yogurt, grass fed, whole low heated/raw (preferably)
  • Raw Cheese, from pasture raised/grass-fed animals
  • Raw Milk, from pasture raised/grass-fed animals
  • Buttermilk, from pasture raised/grass-fed animals
  • Olives (not from a can)
  • Pickles (homemade with unrefined sea salt, not store bought which are loaded with unhealthy ingredients)
  • Relish
  • Fruit chutney
  • Salsa, you can ferment you favorite


  • Kefir, a popular drink originating from eastern European, Russian countries. Made by fermenting raw milk and special grains that multiply while fermenting.
  • Kombucha tea, a recently popular health drink that tastes much better when brewed at home.
  • Water kefir, made with water, sugar and grains
  • Beet kvass, made by fermenting beets in water, salt and whey
  • Barley grain sprouted health drink
    • You can culture or ferment most vegetables, fruits, and homemade condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.

Starters for Culturing or Fermenting

Fermenting will take trial and error. There are a few different ways to culture or ferment foods, one process is the addition of whey to make lacto-fermented food. Lacto-fermentation provides enzymes and good bacteria.  If your lactose intolerant, leave it out and add a little more salt.


Salt has historically been used to preserve foods. It inhibits the growth of invading unwanted microorganisms, and assists in the growth of wanted good bacteria; Lactobacilli which is salt tolerant. Depending on the type of food you are fermenting/culturing, depends on how much and of which to use.


Whey definitely adds a benefit when used in culturing foods. Whey is the liquid that separates in the process of making cheese.  Yogurt can also be made into a cheese by hanging in a muslin cloth; your finished product will be a solid Greek style yogurt and the liquid-whey. Another way is to leave raw milk on the counter for many days until it clabbers resulting in curds and whey. It’s important to use salt along with whey when using the lacto-fermenting method for a crunchy final product.


Kombucha and water kefir are the 2 more common fermented beverages which use a culture, sugar, water and in the case of kombucha -tea. The use of sugar in creating fermented beverages is an ancient art; the sugar is needed to feed the yeast (good bacteria) in the culture converts the sugar into a beneficial health drink. The final product will have CO2 (carbon dioxide), which gives bubbles and there will only be about 1-2 grams of sugar per 8oz of liquid; less if left longer.

Grains or Starter

Foods and drinks such as yogurt, kefir, water kefir and kombucha require a starter.

  • Yogurt needs a scoop of yogurt from a previous batch to produce yogurt.
  • Kefir (water and dairy) require grains which multiply while fermenting. Kefir water also requires sugar to feed it’s grains, the 2 types of grains are different.
  • Kombucha requires sugar, tea, and a scoby culture or “mushroom” –a mother- that will create another scoby referred to as the baby. This scoby will produce a baby every time, which you can compost or give it away to someone else.

In order to begin making yogurt or any of the health drinks mentioned, you will need a starter, perhaps there is a group of people in your area who share grains, or a health food store where you could ask if they know how you can get grains for the drink you would like to begin making. There are resources on line, but if you could find someone locally would be better. When you begin to create your health drinks, pass on the favor to your friends or compost them, you will have so many cultures you won’t know what to do.


  • When first introducing cultured foods in the diet, if your body is not used to them, start with smaller amounts and work your way up. Too much of a good thing can hurt you. Symptoms like gas and bloating may appear at first, but once your digestive system gets used to them, this will go away.
  • Remember, probiotics are food, they are in food, but many people on a western-new foods-diet don’t get many probiotics in their system. As a result, die off symptoms may surface such as headaches, flu-like symptoms and skin conditions. This happens because probiotics are killing off the pathogens (or bad bacteria) and when they die, they release potent toxins, which may result in die off symptoms.
  • Start with 1 Tbs. of cultured vegetables with a meal, or 2 oz of a pro biotic drink at a time, every other day to start off with. Then work your way up, doubling your intake after about a week, and then up from there to about 1 Cup of cultured vegetables, or more, with meals and up to a cup of a probiotic drink, depending on which one will determine the amount of servings per day. The main thing here is to listen to your body.
  • If you find that you are not taking well to the addition of probiotic foods to your diet, you may have chronic issues such as overgrowth of yeasts and a detoxification may be necessary to do a full clean up. There are many detoxification programs out there. One of the most effective programs to get the body on track is the GAPS Diet, Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha-Campbell McBride. If you do not have any major health issues, a detoxification can be safely done at home. Further research and the advice of an alternative health practitioner or doctor is recommended before doing a detoxification program, as some individuals need to be supervised due to health conditions.
  • In the case that probiotics are not working, you would stop until you clean your system. 

How to Culture Your Own Foods

Please look for recipes under Cultured Foods , or search under probiotic foods.


  • Safety in the use of probiotics is not a concern for most people.
  • Concerns about the quality of improperly cultured foods are toxicity due poor quality foods and the harmful ingredients added. It’ best to make your own at home using whole food sources and organic, or buy from a trusted source. Some products on the market actually contain unfriendly bacteria. There are supplement of lactobacillus that can be taken, but if you can get it from food source is best.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, then a dairy source of probiotics would not be your first choice, however, raw dairy is usually tolerated by intolerant individuals of dairy; try a small amount first and work your way up.
  • If you are on medications or on chemotherapy, speak to your doctor before adding cultured foods to your meal plan, in such cases probiotics may increase your chances of getting sick and interfering with treatment.
  • If you are taking antibiotics, don’t use a probiotic at the same time, to avoid interactions, take a probiotic at least 2 hours before or after taking an antibiotic.

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