What do you get from a cow after an earthquake?
A milk shake!
Ah, the humble American Milkshake. Lactoblendus americus. Treat of undeniable pleasure for some, awful harbinger of gastrointestinal distress for others.
Until this week, I was firmly planted in the latter category.
That’s before I met my new BFF. Well, my new colony of BFFs. Billions upon billions of tiny little creatures who simply cannot wait to stake their claim in the wasteland of my intestines: Probiotics.
Probiotics are any number of microorganisms that benefit their hosts via colonization. Kind of like those birds that eat bugs off of hippos, except they live inside you. They can be bacteria or yeast, or even worms. Probiotics have been used to treat everything from allergies to urinary infections to lactose intolerance.
I briefly mentioned in my maintenance post that I got an awful bout of stomach flu or food poisoning earlier this year, and my stomach hasn’t been the same since. What probably happened, said my doctor, was that my standard colony of gut bacteria was nearly wiped out by the intestinal WWIII of my illness.
Fermented foods — such as yogurt, kefir, miso, and pickles — get their intense flavors from the workings of probiotics, so her first suggestion was to eat more yogurt. The standard yogurt strain of probiotics, acidophilus, is usually a combo of lactic acid bacteria (such as L. acidophilus) and other healthy bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium.
Yogurt and I have a rocky relationship. Yes, even Greek yogurt. I had to confess to my doctor that I’m not a huge yogurt fan, and it sometimes upsets my stomach.
Second suggestion: An over-the-counter probiotic tablet called Align. Align is 100% Bifidobacterium, which I gather is unique in that it’s one of the standard inhabitants of the tiny guts of breast-fed babies.
Figuring I had nothing to lose, I grabbed a box at Walgreen’s and started adding one tablet a day to my vitamin regimen.
I have to be honest here. I wasn’t expecting much. The Align literature itself says that some folks have nasty side effects like bloating and gas for the first few days. With all my pizza dough making, that certainly made sense to me; I figured ingesting bacteria might be somewhat similar to brewing a sourdough starter in my intestines.
The proof, in this case, is not in the pudding. It’s in the milkshake. After two days of Align, with no nasty side effects, I consumed a milkshake and survived to tell the tale!
It’s been a week, and I can’t hardly believe it that my stomach feels normal again. Seriously, guys, baby carrots had me doubling over from stomach cramps not too long ago. I even shared a week’s worth with my boyfriend, who agrees that his stomach has never felt better.
I’m going to be sending my new Bifidobacterium some tasty little comrades soon, because a friend is sharing her kefir starter with me. (Thanks Natasha!) Homemade fermented foods are generally higher in probiotics than their mass-produced cousins, and I’m hoping that kefir will make getting my daily dairy intake fun again. I might try making yogurt at home, too, and see if that makes it any more palatable for me.
Do you love yogurt, kefir, natto, or other fermented foods?
Do you ferment anything yourself at home?