Tuesday June 25, 2024
sf v2 logo

Although we continually strive to harness and control nature, there are certain truths of nature that cannot be ignored. These truths of nature must always remain central to our understanding.

It is well established that our digestive microflora has a powerful effect on our health, The studies on its effects are extensive yet the research on how to manage a healthy microflora is extremely limited. The probiotic market sprung from this area of health has taken the complex discipline of microbiology into the field of nutrition, diluting our understanding further. This has resulted in the one dimensional approach of putting lots of bacteria in a bottle with the hope they will reach the intestines and have some sort of benefit. This is all about to change.

As supplementation is rapidly moving towards whole-foods, there now needs to be an argument for whole-food probiotics. We are now discovering the reason why kefir and other fermented foods were the probiotics of our ancestors.


Truth of nature

Our gut flora is unique to each and every one of us. It is unique as our fingerprint or our DNA. It is also dynamic and continually changing, with microbial species able to evolve within a couple of hours.


Originally the accepted term for probiotics was foods containing live bacteria which are beneficial to health (International Journal of Food Microbiology 1998). This was changed at a probiotic symposium in 2001 to 'Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host' (Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics 2001). Can you spot the difference? The removal of food from the definition has taken away the most effective element in supporting our digestive microflora and left us with one message, the more beneficial bacteria the better. This is completely inaccurate and can be problematic.


Truth of nature

The environment dictates life, not numbers. Mega doses of bacteria cannot survive and colonise in an environment that does not support them. But if the environment is supportive to an invasion, other less sturdy species usually suffer.


Any microbiologist will tell you that the environment must be established before introducing life. Can you imagine transporting all the animals on earth to the moon and unloading them? How many do you think would survive? And what if you keep adding more? The answer is obvious. Life can only survive and thrive if the environment allows. This is the sole reason why standard probiotics have such mixed results in research and in practice. Your ecosystem is unique to you and a standardised approach is like flipping a coin, and certainly not natural.

It is also important to know how quick and easy it is to eliminate whole species within any ecosystem. It is a fact that over 80% of the 1000+ organisms in our digestive tract cannot be cultured in a laboratory. This means we cannot research them and have no idea what they do or how they react to change.


Colonisation of the digestive tract

Colonisation is far more complex than just landing a few species into an environment they have not been exposed to before. We are just beginning to understand how colonisation of micro-organisms happens in our digestive tract, despite being a topic of research since the 1950s.

Here are some of the factors we know are involved in colonisation:

            Suitable pH.


            Transit time (otherwise purification takes place)



            Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)

            Key nutrients such as L-glutamine, zinc, phospolipids, electrolytes

            Amount of surface area

            anti-microbial substances - bacteriocins, etc

            Adhesion factors (Van de Waals forces etc)



            Hormonal substances

            Bile flow

            Other organisms present (including the many beneficial yeasts)

Fermented foods either provides these factors, or can manage or influence every one of them, even stress.


Truth of nature

We are exposed to trillions of bacteria from 1000s of different species each and every day. If the conditions are right, only a few hundred organisms are necessary for colonisation and to become many billions within hours.

How many colony forming units do we really need?. There are many studies showing that fermented soymilk can increase populations of all organisms, not just the ones present in the product. There are also many studies that show fermented food work just as well without the organisms in the product. Life in its many forms will always come if the environment allows, and come quickly.


The importance of yeasts

Probiotics have so far concentrated on a few bacterial strains due to their original purpose of countering anti-biotics. The fact is that yeasts are far better fermenters and produce a greater array of anti-microbial compounds. They are very effective at managing other organisms and are proving to have powerful effects in health Saccharomyces Bouladii being an example. Certainly the studies on kefir (containing bacteria & yeasts) out perform studies on yogurt every time. In fact this month a study using Saccharomyces Cerevisiae showed a 63% success in reducing IBS symptoms.


Yes probiotics can be harmful

Consider the histories of introducing rabbits to New Zealand, and grey squirrels to the UK. Or maybe the introduction to Europe of Japanese knotweed as a beautiful exotic plant. Friendly life placed in a very similar ecosystem can have completely unexpected results. This has been proven in probiotic studies. There are a number of robust studies proving that probiotics have detrimental actions in the digestive tract and adversely affecting other beneficial species already present.

  • Probiotics can both increase and decrease different strains of bacteria including lactobaccilus and bifidobacterium.

Human Microbiome Project, 2011

  • Unpredictable behaviour of naturally occurring or genetically altered microorganisms.
  • Unexpected interactions of bacteria within the specific local environment of the human host.
  • Unexpected release of novel bacteria into the (external) environment.

Helping Patients Make Informed Choices About Probiotics: A Need For Research. American Journal of Gastroenterology 2009


The whole-food approach

Whole-food micro-biotics provide everything to manage a healthy and balanced digestive microflora. They create a healthy organism, provide a life support for its journey, increase the surface area of the small intestines, provide the nutrients and energy to the digestive lining, create the environment to thrive, support colonisation and much more.

Whole-food probiotics are personal by their actions, and support the personalised approach all modern nutritional methods such as the Functional Medicine model.

Read the various areas of research we will continue to upload onto SuperFerment and our breakdown of benefits on the link below.

10 reasons why to choose a kefir fermented whole-food micro-biotic



Register for our newsletter
Please wait

Today's quote

'Life’s truths cannot always be reduced to 12-point Times Roman.'

Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation