Probiotics have become an exciting frontier in health and wellness. Most people only think about probiotic supplements in a bottle, but today we're talking about foods that have probiotics in them. These probiotic foods have billions of more probiotics than supplements. I think supplements are very good, but so often they are killed by stomach acid and never make it all the way to the parts of the body where they can do the job. Probiotic foods are different. They have a protective halo around them that speeds them to the parts of the body quickly because they're attached to food. We researched and found that one spoonful of cultured vegetables has more probiotics than a whole supplement bottle. And this, my friends, is far less expensive, works better, and will teach you so much about food and how it can work like medicine. I reach for these foods every day when I have symptoms that crop up that I need help with. These could be symptoms such as a headache, sinus pressure, seasonal allergies, virus, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, diabetes, or even adrenal fatigue. These foods work like medicine and help me through the daunting struggles of my everyday life. I see these cultured foods fermenting on my counter and I feel a swell of emotion that I found them and they keep me well. Like friends that call to me and say, "We’re here to help you. Please eat us." These living microbes in a jar have been placed right within your reach.
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” And I have seen this to be true. As we think about our health and future it can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. There is help for us all.
How Do Probiotics Keep Us Healthy?
Doctors Prescribing Probiotics
Imagine that you go to the doctor and instead of handing you a prescription, he gives you a probiotic recommendation that will help your illness. Then he tells you that this probiotic has an 86% success rate in several randomized placebo studies and there are no side effects.
This is actually starting to happen with many open-minded health providers and it’s exciting to see probiotics make their way into the health care system. This is what I’ve been teaching for years, but I have found that probiotic foods are much stronger than probiotic supplements. So, how do probiotics keep us healthy?
When you have a healthy amount of good bacteria in your gut, they crowd out pathogens that are looking to multiply into large numbers. When you have lots of good bacteria, the harmful bacteria diminish and clear the space for the healthier strains of bacteria. They protect the mucosal lining, or barrier, that keeps out viruses and pathogens. These good bacteria protect us from harmful bacteria that would otherwise make us sick. It is really a strong army inside of us that fights on our behalf every day.
Probiotic Foods For Different Ailments
This is a list of ailments that have been proven to respond well to the consumption of probiotics. Click on each of the words to read more about each ailment and the probiotic solution.
I've personally seen several friends whose autistic children experienced healing from eating probiotic foods and it was quite moving. I have a wonderful story from reader Rebecca Willis on my Lives Touched page that would warm your heart and make you understand the power of these powerful microbes to help with autism. (check out the story) I never understood why it worked so effectively, but years later more research studies have confirmed what I was witnessing.
One study on autism that really made an impact on me was done by food microbiologist Glenn Gibson at the University of Reading. It is referred to by some people as “the trial that was so successful, it failed.” 1 The study was done with 40 autistic children all between the ages of 4 and 13 years. Each child was randomly placed in one of two groups. For three weeks, one group was given a probiotic supplement with the species Lactobacillus plantarum which is abundant in cultured vegetables. The other children were given a placebo. After three weeks, the researchers planned to switch what each group was receiving, supplement or placebo. However, the parents of the children taking the probiotic saw such positive results that they knew which group they were in and refused to switch to the placebo. They saw too many improvements, in not only digestive health but also mental and behavioral health, that they said it was heartbreaking to have to stop their child from taking the probiotic. The children were calmer and had a greater ability to listen and concentrate. The trial had such a large dropout rate that it was discontinued.
One of the first friends I ever told about cultured foods had a little boy with asthma. Making and drinking a kefir smoothie every day allowed him to get off his asthma inhaler and live a normal life. I was quite surprised and thrilled that it worked so rapidly. I heard about another similar success story when I ran into a lady at the health food store who had come to one of my classes. She told me that her husband had gotten off his inhaler, after fifteen years of using it, just by adding kefir and cultured veggies to his diet.
Another woman emailed me and told me the juice from cultured veggies stopped an asthma attack dead in its tracks. One afternoon she found herself having an asthma attack from a wind storm and had no inhaler to help her. Luckily, she had a cooler in her car with a jar of cultured veggies. She swigged the juice down as best she could since her airways were closing; and lo and behold, it worked!
In the American Journal of Epidemiology, they tied asthma to the consumption of antibiotics. This study found that when doctors give young children antibiotics, their risk of developing asthma before the age of six increases by 50 percent! In another study, researchers in the U.K., led by allergist Adnan Custovic, analyzed data from more than 1,000 children from birth until the age of 11. They looked at their medical records to determine how often doctors gave them antibiotics and how often they ended up with asthma. “We noted significantly higher risk of physician-confirmed wheezing after antibiotic prescription,” they wrote. There was a 70 percent increased risk for any kind of asthma case after the use of antibiotics. This speaks to the connection between healthy gut bacteria and the occurrence of asthma.
One study showed the anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects of kefir in a mouse asthma model.2 Kefir significantly suppressed an induced airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR) to inhaled methacholine.(Methacholine is used as a test to determine whether you may have asthma. It is a cholinergic drug that causes wheezing and shortness of breath.) Kefir significantly inhibited the increase in the total inflammatory cell count induced, and the distressed lung returned to normal. Kefir showed anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects in this study and may be used as a new therapeutic potential for the treatment of allergic bronchial asthma.
Colitis, Crohn's, Ulcers
Our digestive system forms one of the barriers between the outside world and our internal structures. Elie Metchnikoff won a Nobel Prize in 1908 for identifying a link between the digestive system and the immune system. His work demonstrates that by manipulating our intestinal microbiome with friendly bacteria we can enhance our health and boost our immune system's healing power.
Jordon Rubin, founder of Garden Of Life, had serious and debilitating Crohn's disease. In his book, "The Raw Truth," he said he drank several quarts of kefir a day and took other probiotic foods and supplements to heal from this dreaded disease.
Clinical studies in mouse models 3 suggest that probiotics may help reduce flares and prevent complications of Crohn's or colitis such as pouchitis. More studies are needed, but using natural sources of prebiotics and probiotics such as kefir and cultured veggies are good choices to supply probiotics and prebiotics in natural foods choices.
In one study, 34 patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis who had not responded to conventional therapy underwent six weeks of treatment with a high-potency probiotic mixture containing eight strains of probiotics, many of which are also found in cultured foods: Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophiles. The outcome was impressive: 77 percent of participants responded favorably to the probiotic treatment. And there were none of the adverse effects that often accompany conventional treatment.4,5
I've seen cultured vegetables, kombucha, and kefir help with so many gastrointestinal disorders, and I've even witnessed firsthand my son healing from an ulcer that was causing him severe pain every time he ate. Kombucha and kefir have been found to help the healing process with those who have ulcers. The special probiotic bacteria and yeasts in kombucha protect the lining of the gut by reducing the acids that damage the mucous membrane. It was found that this works as well as the prescription drug Prilosec in healing stomach ulcers.6 Cultured vegetables play a part in healing ulcers as well. Vitamin U, which is not actually a vitamin but a compound called S-methylmethionine, is abundant in cultured cabbage and its juices. It has been shown to successfully treat ulcerative colitis, acid reflux, and peptic ulcers.7,8 Kefir was something he consumed every morning, and with this trilogy combination, it helped him heal in about two months. In addition to adding the probiotic foods, he did eliminate any acidic foods that were aggravating his condition.
Fibromyalgia is one of the fastest-growing disabling conditions, and it seems to affect mostly women. I see it cropping up everywhere. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes muscular and joint pain as well as extreme fatigue. It is debilitating and can ruin people’s lives. More and more evidence is pointing to an unhealthy gut in people suffering from fibromyalgia. One study found that those who have fibromyalgia also have a leaky gut syndrome or IBS. Another study showed that 73 percent of patients with fibromyalgia reported gastrointestinal symptoms and that IBS was present in 30 to 70 percent of fibromyalgia patients.9
This would indicate that there is a correlation between fibromyalgia and gut problems. The medical community does not yet know what causes fibromyalgia or agree on how to remedy it; but time and time again, I see people who fix their guts finding relief or improvement from fibromyalgia.
Sherri, one of my class participants, shared her fibromyalgia story.
Over 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For years, I’d had an all-over body ache that felt like inflammation. It was an ache that I had every day. I was especially achy when we had rainy weather.
After having a terrible bout with a stomach virus that lasted about a week, I searched out information about how to heal my gut issues. I found your videos and that’s where it all began. After watching your videos, I immersed myself in making kefir, cultured veggies, and kombucha. After three weeks of filling myself with these wonderful foods, I woke up one morning and realized I didn't have that all-over body ache anymore. It’s been that way for the past eight days, and I’m so excited about it. Also, it’s calmed my painful gastric problems, and I have a sense of well-being. I know this is something that I’m going to continue to do because it’s improving my health. ~ Sherri
High cholesterol is another health issue that is significantly impacted by probiotics. I’ve had many people tell me that their cholesterol level was lowered after starting with cultured foods. As good bacteria grow in the intestinal tract, these microbes consume some of the cholesterol that is present, incorporating it into their own cells. This means the cholesterol becomes unavailable for absorption from the intestine into the bloodstream, naturally lowering total cholesterol.
A double-blind study with 60 volunteers aged 18 to 65 looked at the effects of probiotics on cholesterol. Each day for 12 weeks, one group received a capsule that contained 120 billion viable Lactobacillus strains, which happen to be abundant in cultured vegetables. The other group got a placebo. There was a 13.6 percent overall reduction in total cholesterol in the people who took the probiotic as compared with the placebo group. Moreover, the participants with the highest cholesterol at the start of the study reduced their total cholesterol by 17.4 percent. Their LDL cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol—was lowered by 17.6 percent, compared with the placebo group. 10 This is a significant reduction in total cholesterol. Ingesting cultured foods provides not only the Lactobacillus strains that were used in the study but also various others that add to an overall balanced gut.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is usually identified by a group of symptoms: abdominal pain, bloating, and a change in bowels that can alternate between diarrhea and constipation. My daughter's story of healing from IBS was one that made me a believer in the power of probiotic foods. She had multiple food allergies and IBS, and by having cultured foods and prebiotics at every meal she healed her gut and IBS. That was over sixteen years ago (check out the story here).
So what do scientists say about the connection between probiotics, a healthy gut, and IBS? One 2014 study looked at 28 people suffering from IBS.11 Some of the participants were asked to consume a fermented milk product for four weeks, while others served as a control group. In those people consuming the drink, researchers saw an increase in the bacteria that produce butyrate, an acid that is beneficial for gut health. In response, the symptoms of their IBS also improved, while the symptoms of the people in the control group remained. The conclusions drawn in this study mirror those of a study done in 2009 with 34 participants.12
Another study, done in Norway, compared three groups: two composed of people who were suffering from IBS and one with subjects who had no symptoms of IBS. One of the IBS groups was given dietary advice, and the other two groups didn’t receive this advice. Many people who have IBS avoid dairy because it causes their symptoms to flare up. The people in the IBS group who got advice were told to consume fermented milk products containing probiotics. Interestingly, the people who consumed the most fermented dairy did significantly better than their counterparts. They reported an improvement in quality of life and a reduction of abdominal pain.13
Kidneys/ Kidneys Stones
There is an emerging surge in the use of probiotics for kidney health in the medical field.14,15 New probiotic supplements have been developed to specifically treat the kidneys, and there have been remarkable results. Certain strains of probiotics can gobble up urea, uric acid, creatinine, and many other toxins that are not being eliminated by underperforming kidneys. As the healthy bacteria grow and multiply they consume more and more of these poisonous substances, reducing the serum uremic toxin levels in people with compromised kidney function.
As of late, people have been sending me more and more stories of how these foods have improved their kidney health. A woman recently shared with me how she had just discovered that she had kidney disease and that her children had it too. Within just a few months of consuming cultured foods, new tests came back confirming normal kidney function. She was astonished, as was her doctor, that the kidneys could heal so rapidly, and it made her a strong believer in the power of cultured foods.
Here is Peni's story - one of my favorite stories about cultured foods and kidney health:
I wrote to you a couple of months ago desperate for some help. My kidney doctor had just told me that my kidneys were functioning at 20 percent and I needed to choose which form of dialysis I would prefer. This seemed a death sentence for me. I have had several health problems through the years, and this was heading for a crash really soon! I asked you if you had ever heard of anyone who had tried this "cultured food and drink" way of life with any results of repairing kidney function and you told me you had not heard of this, but you gave me encouragement to try it anyway. In my grief and despair, I decided to do just that. Donna, I went back to the kidney care doctor just recently and he just kept shaking his head and said he didn’t understand how or why this way worked, but that not only had I lost weight in the two months since I last saw him, but my kidney function ... went UP 10 percent!!!!! Yay God! He said he had never heard of this happening before. The nurse came back in after the visit and said in all the years she had worked for him, she had never seen him speechless like that. All this, Donna, after only doing it for approximately 1-1/2 months! ~ Peni
Here's How to Get Started
All of the ailments listed above in the grid are talked about in my second book Cultured Food for Health and many of these are on my website under health and wellness. These seem like miracles, but actually it's how our bodies are designed to work. We’re 100 trillion microbes and essentially sacks of bacteria walking around, but we need to harness the power that lies within us. This is my piece in the world. I am the voice of bacteria, of hope and encouragement, that wants to tell you that you’re never, ever alone. You have 100 trillion friends helping you and all they really care about is you. It does seem like a grand design and divine plan and makes me feel loved and cared for. And for what it's worth, I care about you, too. I love your guts . . . quite literally.
Listen To My Podcast
Open minded health providers are starting to prescribe probiotics for different health ailments. Learn which probiotics they’re prescribing and how you can heal yourself by eating probiotic cultured foods.
- J. Scott and G. Gibson, “Probiotics and Autism,” Food Matters (2007)
- D. Banerjee et al., “Comparative Healing Property of Kombucha Tea and Black Tea Against Indomethacin-induced Gastric Ulceration in Mice: Possible Mechanism of Action,” Food & Function 1, no. 3 (December 2010): 284–93: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21776478.
- Cheney, S.H. Waxler, and I.J. Miller, “Vitamin U Therapy of Peptic Ulcer; Experience at San Quentin Prison,” California Medicine 84, no. 1 (January 1956): 39-42: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13276831
- G. Cheney, “Rapid Healing of Peptic Ulcers in Patients Receiving Fresh Cabbage Juice,” California Medicine 70, no. 1 (January 1949): 10-15: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18104715.
- S. Elmståhl, U. Svensson, and G. Berglund, “Fermented Milk Products Are Associated to Ulcer Disease. Results from a Cross-Sectional Population Study,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 52, no. 9 (September 1998): 668–74: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9756124.
- D.J. Wallace and D.S. Hallegua, “Fibromyalgia: The Gastrointestinal Link,” Current Pain and Headache Reports 8, no. 5 (October 2004): 364–8: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15361320.
- M.C. Fuentes et al., “Cholesterol-lowering Efficacy of Lactobacillus plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529 in Hypercholesterolaemic Adults,” British Journal of Nutrition 109, no. 10 (May 28, 2013): 1866-72: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23017585.3841.
- “Impact of Gut Microbiota of Fermented Milk Product Containing Probiotics Revealed by New Technology,” Science Daily (September 11, 2014): www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140911125045.htm.
- A. Agrawal et al., “Clinical Trial: The Effects of a Fermented Milk Product Containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 on Abdominal Distension and Gastrointestinal Transit in Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation,” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 29, no.1 (January 2009): 104-14: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801055.
- H. Østgaard et al., “Diet and Effects of Diet Management on Quality of Life and Symptoms in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” Molecular Medicine Reports 5, no. 6 (June 2012): 1382–90: www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2012.843.
- Duncan et al., “Oxalobacter formigenes and Its Potential Role in Human Health,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 68, no. 8 (August 2002): 3841-7: aem.asm.org/content/68/8/3841.full.
- C. Campieri et al., “Reduction of Oxaluria after an Oral Course of Lactic Acid Bacteria at High Concentration,” Kidney International 60, no. 3 (September 2001): 1097-105: abstract at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11532105.