I have never been what the marketers call an ‘early adopter.’ In fact, I fit pretty solidly into the group of people they identify as ‘laggards:’ those who only purchase things after they are well-established.
I’m pretty skeptical about most new products and consider them fads until proven otherwise. Growing up, I rejected the hula hoop and Elvis Presley. More recently, I believed the cell phone would never catch on. (Who on earth would want to talk to people in the aisle of a supermarket where everyone could hear the conversation???)
My initial reaction when I first heard the word ‘probiotics’ was “Really?” I had never warmed to the idea of eating organic foods and considered it a fad popular among liberal elites (even though I am a card-carrying member of that group). Introducing probiotics to the equation was crossing too many lines for me.
So I paid little attention to it until I started my research into brain health. I bristled when it first came up in my reading. All my alarms were going off as I learned about the gut microbiome that contains thousands of different organisms that are essential for digestion and creating the chemical compounds that are vital to brain health. Conversely, a poorly-functioning microbiome can generate neurotoxins.
That caught my attention.
But as I delved deeper, I wasn’t convinced that the research has yet advanced to the point where we can definitively say that enhancing a certain group of bacteria is beneficial. There are just too many different organisms and too many combinations and too many potential interactions to say for sure, IMHO. Then there is the testing that indicates a lot of products marketed as probiotic supplements don’t contain what they claim and, worse still, what they do provide is not absorbed by your gut.
As is my tendency, I backed off a few steps and looked for a level of engagement that matched my comfort zone, given the data.
A simple guideline that made sense to me was that you should include some fermented foods in your diet as they contain naturally occurring beneficial probiotic organisms that have long been consumed in various cultures.
I tried kimchi, but hated it. Then I made a batch of sauerkraut and loved it. (It’s easy to make: just massage some kosher salt into a bowl of shredded cabbage, weigh it down, cover, then let it sit on the counter until it tastes right. It’s a whole lot better than commercial sauerkraut. It’s now my go-to afternoon snack, mixed with a little seaweed salad.
But I didn’t stop there. A word kept cropping up in my reading that I didn’t recognize: kefir. I checked it out and discovered it was a fermented milk product (like yogurt) and generated a number of probiotic organisms. The problem for me, though, was that I had given up dairy.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the potential benefits outweighed the negative impact of milk and milk fat, especially in small quantities. I gave it a try and it was delicious.
Since I had made my own yogurt for ten years at our B&B, I knew that my next project would be to make it myself. I ordered a kefir maker from Amazon which was basically a 2-quart glass jar with a perforated lid to allow for air circulation. It came with a packet of ‘kefir stones’ which contain the microbes that convert milk fat into the beneficial probiotic organisms.
I discovered that there was a product called ‘A2 milk’ which is supposed to be a little healthier than regular milk, so I bought some to make my kefir. It’s pretty simple: pour the milk into the jar, add the kefir stones, and let it sit on the counter for about 24 hours. For flavor, I added a pint of pureed strawberries to a quart of kefir. (Somehow, I had dropped strawberries from my diet, opting for blueberries and raspberries, instead. This corrects that oversight.)
It turned out wonderfully! It’s a little tart, so I add a packet of stevia to ½ cup of my homemade strawberry kefir and drink it for dessert each night.
It took less than a week before I noticed a healthy change in my digestion. Wow…color me surprised!
I enjoy reading about your “journey,” Wayne.–Doug Spencer
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