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By Chris Sovey, RN,BSN
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It is well established in the literature that probiotics are beneficial for a large variety of health ailments and immunity-boosting properties. In the United States, we’ve strayed away from fermented foods and instead opted for pasteurized alternatives. Nearly all sauerkraut purchased in the stores is currently pasteurized. Any food product that once contained live food is heated or altered in some way. This is not without consequence. Authors such as Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride argue that the lack of fermented foods, and overwhelming prevalence of highly-processed food are doing a severe injustice to our gut health.
Almost every culture traditionally includes some form of fermented foods in their cuisine. Asian cultures consume Kim-chi on a regular basis. The Germans have Sauerkraut. It is likely why most of these societies are able to digest problematic grains without significant difficulty. But what about America? Are we doing an adequate job taking care of our guts?
If you have been reading Healthyconsumer.com for a while now, you are aware that I believe food is a powerful healer. Food sources of nutrients are nearly always superior and more bioavailable to the body than synthetic alternatives. The body recognizes food with ease. It doesn’t require complex chemical conversion processes. Any time we can simplify things, it is a preferential option. This is true in all aspects of life.
I’ve tried a multitude of probiotic products on the market, and most I’m not impressed with. They usually either contain a large amount of fillers, not enough diversity in the bacterial strains, or not enough live bacterial counts to deliver any therapeutic value. Let’s not forget how expensive commercial probiotics can be. I’m not discounting them, entirely. There certainly are a few great products on the market. Also, the convenience factor is something that is something worth noting about commercial probiotics.
If you’d like to save hundreds of dollars on probiotics, homemade probiotics are an economical solution.
What are some examples of homemade probiotics?
- Milk / Water / Coconut Kefirs – beverages made from a symbiotic complex of probiotic organisms. Kefirs require a starter culture referred to as “grains,” which are essentially clumps of beneficial bacteria and organisms. They contain wide variety of strains. Two disadvantages include high maintenance of the culture, and the fermentation requires sugar.
- Sauerkraut (organic, raw, not pasteurized), is a tried and tested method of lacto-fermentation. Lactic-acid fermentation has been around since 6 B.C. or possibly before, as a means to preserve food. As a result of this process, beneficial lactic-acid bacteria are produced. Salt acts as the “food” for the bacteria, while also assisting the water to act as a solvent in the process.
- Fermented Carrot Juice – Fermented carrot juice is one of my favorite options for probiotic beverages. Fermented carrot juice is an excellent source of Beta-Carotene, which is further made available through the fermentation process. Fermentation of carrot juice also increases iron solubility by up to 30 times!
- Kombucha – An aerobic, fermented tea beverage. Most Kombucha beverages are an excellent source of Vitamin B-12. Some authors claim that Kombucha is traditionally a powerful detoxifier and may be contra-indicated if you have amalgam fillings. (I have amalgam fillings and notice strange sensations when I drink Kombucha, so I avoid it now.) Kombucha is available widely through the United States in grocery stores.
- Beet Kvass – A traditional Russian beverage made from fermented beets. Beet Kvass provides plentiful amounts of B vitamins, and can be quite tasty if prepared correctly. Kvass takes about 2-3 weeks to properly ferment and go through the entire bacterial life-cycle for maximum benefits.
- Yogurt – A simple, fermented food that is typically prepared using a dairy milk (goat, cow, sheep, etc) and a starter culture or innoculant. Most yogurt available for retail purchase loses a lot of its benefits due to the massive amounts of added sugar and factory farmed milk. Yogurt has the potential to be a powerful health food if prepared correctly.
In the following video, I’ve demonstrated how easy it can be to make a 2 month supply of cheap, effective homemade probiotics. This whole process took me about 20 minutes.