I’ve recently been discussing the fascinating experimental research from MIT detailing the almost unbelievable changes observed in mice when supplemented with probiotic species Lactobacillus reuteri (strain ATCC PTA 6475). Mice developed thicker more luxuriant fur, thicker dermal layers of the skin and thicker overall skin, and increased testosterone levels, as well as dramatically increased skin collagen deposition and doubled oxytocin blood levels. Both the range of changes and their magnitude are jaw-dropping.
I’ve therefore been playing around with the idea of supplementing higher intakes of L. reuteri of various strains. Most commercial preparations of this species provide 100 million to a few billion CFUs. We all know that the stated amount on the label may or may not accurately reflect the real CFU counts at time of ingestion. Even though Lactobacilli species in general are able to survive stomach and bile acids, there is likely at least some attrition on ingestion.
In an effort to increase bacterial counts, I therefore used the method of “feeding” these lactose-fermenting species with a prebiotic fiber, inulin. For instance, I fermented one quart of organic half-and-half with 5 billion CFUs of L. reuteri (NCIMB 30242; LifeExtension) and one tablespoon of inulin. (In other words, I used L. reuteri, rather than a commercial starter culture or live culture yogurt, to ferment the lactose.) After 36 hours of fermentation at around 110 degrees F (in my oven heated for around 60-90 seconds every 4 hours or so), I had an ultra-thick yogurt with no perceptible taste difference from conventionally produced yogurt. I did not perform a formal CFU count but, given the extraordinary thickness of the final product compared to the liquid starting form, it is likely that there are hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions, of CFUs in this final product. And it is delicious and wonderfully filling.
An uncertainty: If you try this method with a probiotic of mixed composition, since most commercial products are combinations of various Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and other species, there may be shifts in the relative counts of each species as they compete for the lactose. But you should nonetheless end up with an end-product with dramatically increased probiotic bacterial counts.
This is also a way to save money. As you know, probiotics can be quite pricey, not uncommonly costing around $40 per month. By growing your own probiotics, you can even skip taking your capsule probiotics for several days at a time and substitute your probiotic-cultivated yogurt.
To keep the inulin from becoming a solid and failing to nourish the bacteria (which it tends to do), start your yogurt by taking only one tablespoon of starting liquid (e.g., half-and-half) and adding the probiotic organisms (removed from their capsule) and inulin and stir to make a slurry. Then add the remaining volume of liquid and stir. If you wish to avoid dairy, substitute canned (full-fat) coconut milk while doubling the inulin and ferment for at least 48 hours, as it takes a bit longer than dairy.