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Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms

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?

13 thoughts on “Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms

  1. As you already know, I am a huge proponent of bacterial health and balance. I make my own yogurt weekly, and also tend to my kefir colony daily. Kefir is definitely my favorite of them all. Kefir has far more active bacteria than the other sources. From what I heard it looks like this:

    Supplement: 15 billion
    500ml yogurt: 1.5 trillion
    500ml keifr: … 5 billion

    Kefir also has prebiotics and healthy yeasts, but what really sets it apart from the others is that rather than passing through your system and cleaning it out, the bacteria in kefir will actually colonize your gut and bring it back into a healthy balance.

    But be careful when you start, and go slowly. I was lucky and think that my body adjusted in just 2 or so days, but some people go through hell for a few weeks after starting. If you have candida or some other bacterial imbalances then you might go through “die-off’, which is pretty much the kefir colonizing your gut and purging bad bacteria. While the yeasts and unhealthy bacteria are being purged they cause like a toxic reaction in the body.

    Enjoy! 😀

    (I am totally here if you have any questions, btw!)

    1. You convinced me in your other comment when you said something about shaking a stick at all the probiotics in kefir. 😉 And thanks for the warning, I think I’m susceptible to candida, so this might be interesting, lol.

  2. I can’t wait to get my kefir colony! After being on anti-biotics in the hospital, and now coumadin for the past 3 weeks — and I’m sure the narcotics aren’t helping the balance, my body is way out of whack. I am getting those opportunistic, annoying “infections” — cold sores, cracks in the side of the mouth (which I heard are fungal invasions) and either eczema or a really NASTY yeast infection….even though I’ve been taking supplements, they are not helping the skin issues.

    It may be difficult to make the cognitive leap from infestations on the skin to probiotics, but for me the link is clear. When my intestinal fauna are working well, then I don’t get skin infections. These infections are always present on the skin and in the system, but usually I can keep them at bay by being healthy. But now that my system is compromised, well… things ain’t so pretty.

    Looking forward to a die-off. Heck, I’m stuck at home for the next 4 weeks, might as well get re-colonized.

  3. And for those of us who can no longer handle dairy in any way, shape or form (sour or not), we can have KOMBUCHA! My husband calls this probiotic fermented green tea ‘swamp water’ but I like it, and I can consume it without getting painful joints, fatigue and eczema.

    Natasha, what you’re talking about (skin infections related to health of intestinal fauna) sounds like basic Ayurvedic wisdom. In Ayurveda, healthy ‘agni (internal fire – ie intestinal health) is the basis for all health. A good intestinal flush plus recolonization will do wonders I bet!

    hmmm, this post and subsequent comments make me feel like I should go do another cleanse…

    1. Swamp water, that’s classic! My boyfriend thinks I’m nuts when I try kombucha. But all he’s going off of is one of the bad flavors they have at Whole Foods. I was thinking about making kombucha at home, but I don’t think I’d drink it that much. And I’m hoping milk kefir will help with calcium and vitamin D. I assume the added vitamin D in most milk lives through the kefir process. 🙂

  4. @ Kimberley, I’ve found that lots of traditional healing practices eventually get scientific validation….wisdom is wisdom, whoever figured it out. It makes sense to me.

    I’m not fond of Kombucha. But I find water kefir intriguing…. sort of a kefir soda where the growing media is sugar from fruit or granualted with some lemon slices and the results are like a pro-biotic soda-pop. My DH might drink that. No way is he going to try kefir, although he will try the labna mixed with garlic and fresh herbs as a spread since I used to make that in college and he ate it then….. but that was made with straining yogurt instead of making kefir cheese.

    Anyway, I’m excited about this new venture, and even joined a yahoo group, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Kefir_making/ — now I’m set in geekdom. Just like the start of my henna obsession, I checked out all the books I could find, got some powder and tried, found an online group and we all helped each other learn….

    1. I feel the same way Natasha! I have so many things “growing” in my kitchen right now, it’s hilarious. Kefir and pizza dough right now, and if I could find that other quart canning jar I have laying around, I’d be cultivating a sourdough starter.

  5. How is your kefir colony?

    Havva has finally some to life and produced 2 batches of real kefir (as opposed to slightly fizzy sour milk). Tonight I strained the whey from my batch and got labna — a kind of fresh cheese — it’s a bit granular like ricotta but with a distinctly yogurty taste. I’m going to make waffles tomorrow and mix my labna with blueberries and honey and see if the DH will like it. (if it has blueberries and honey, he usually likes it — and the last batch of waffles was made with the kefir sour milk and they were the fluffiest I’ve ever made!)

    It’s pretty exciting to have a colony of wild critters doing their thing in my kitchen cupboard and I have to do is strain, drink, and replenish the milk…..

    I have not been drinking the kefir raw — one sip told me it was a flavor that for me needs other flavors with it — so I’ve been making smoothies with frozen fruit and a dash of honey — yummalicious. And so easy! And I’m so proud of my Havva!

    1. Natasha, I loooove love love my kefir colony! Thank you so very much for sharing some grains with me. It took exactly one week for my kefir to start separating into “cheese” and whey. The cheese is pretty good, but I’ve been just drinking it plain or mixing it in smoothies. It’s definitely cool to keep critters in the pantry that consistently produce yummy food. 😉 Kind of like farming, right? Haha.

      I’m surprised at how easy it is honestly. My sourdough starter that I mixed up at the same time I got the kefir died. :/ I’ll have to try that again.

      Thank you again!!!

      1. It really IS easy! My fave right now is to toss a dash of fiber supplement into my daily half cup of kefir and add a dash of honey. Yum. And after a full week of ingesting happy symbiotic bacto-yeast, my skin problems have calmed down and are on their way out. 🙂 (I’m also off the coumadin, which helps)

        Once I can drive again, I’m going to go to the Korean Grocery and get nappa cabbage, red pepper powder, ginger, scallions and make a batch of kimchee with a dash of kefir whey to get things going.

        I am intrigued with the idea of water kefir — but the regular stuff is keeping me busy right now. And tomorrow, I’m making pizza from scratch!

        This is a book I got from the library that has a nice chapter on yogurt and kefir: Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal

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