Probiotics are essential to your Wheat Belly lifestyle, especially in the initial weeks and months of the program as you turn the tide of dysbiosis, disrupted bowel flora, that prior life habits got you. But commercial probiotics are darned expensive. It’s not uncommon to spend $40 to $70 dollars per month for quality products. Is there a way to reduce costs yet still obtain all the benefits?
You bet there is.
Just as we have been cultivating single species such as Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus casei, we can also cultivate the many species contained in probiotics through yogurt-making. The conversion of the relatively thin liquid of, say, organic half-and-half or whole milk or coconut milk to thick, rich yogurt means that a few billion organisms at the start are multiplied to hundreds of billions. It also means that you have created a mix of bacterial metabolites that are beneficial for humans, such as butyrate and acetoacetate. The end-result is also delicious.
You can consume this yogurt in place of probiotic capsules whenever you choose, saving you the cost of having to buy a probiotic every month.
Recall that commercial yogurts are fermented for about 4 hours, while we ferment for 36 hours. Remember the kids’ trick question that asks “If I give you a penny on day one, then double it every day for a month–how much will you have at the end of the month?” Most people answer something like “A thousand dollars” or “ten thousand dollars.” The answer, of course, is over $5 million—that is the power of doubling over time. Look at this graph (from Jago Trader about compound interest):
Bacteria behave similarly. Assuming a 3-hour doubling time: one bacterium at hour three, two on hour six, four on hour nine, eight on hour twelve, and and so on. You can see that the increase in bacterial numbers is minor at the start. It’s the number of bacteria that result after many hours (substitute hours for days in the graph) in which you achieve spectacularly high numbers in the tens or hundreds of billions. Our method of fermenting L. reuteri yogurt, for instance, yields 90 billion CFUs (live bacterial counts), far more than the millions contained in many commercial yogurts at the supermarket.
The fermentation method I use also takes advantage of adding prebiotic fibers for yogurt making that further amplifies bacterial counts. Fermenting without prebiotic fibers will yield a thinner end-product with fewer bacteria, as prebiotic fibers are the food that bacteria “digest.” I’ve made our various yogurts without prebiotic fibers and the end-result is not nearly as thick and rich as that made with prebiotic fibers. (Commercial yogurt manufacturers don’t use prebiotic fibers because the brief fermentation time of four hours they use to accelerate production would not make a difference; it requires longer fermentation time to obtain the advantages of added prebiotic fiber.) Longer fermentation times and adding prebiotic fibers also increases content of butyrate that yields beneficial metabolic effects (e.g., higher HDL, reduced triglycerides, reduced blood sugar, improved insulin response, etc.).
We start with higher-fat products such as half-and-half, rather than skim or low-fat milk, yieiding richer and tastier yogurt than the insipid watery stuff you buy from grocery stores. Making it yourself also means not having to read labels to dodge sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and thickeners/emulsifiers added for texture and mixability but adversely impact bowel flora and bowel health (via disruption of the mucous lining). Extended fermentation also minimizes lactose content (since it is fermented to lactic acid) and reduces pH that maximally denatures (breaks down) the casein beta A1 protein.
Choose probiotic capsules that do not contain a yeast such as Saccharomyces species, since fungi will ferment to alcohol, not lactic acid. I’ve had success making yogurt with the Renew Life brand, Garden of Life RAW, as well as single species/strains of L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L casei, B. coagulans and others.
Because your yogurt contains hundreds of billions of microorganisms, consuming, say, 1/2 cup per day can take the place of a probiotic capsule. The yogurt will yield greater bacterial counts than the original capsule, even if divided into six or seven servings. A quart batch of yogurt will therefore save you the cost of 6 days of probiotics while also serving as breakfast or snack and tasting delicious. And you can make successive batches of yogurt from prior batches, saving you even more money. (At some point, competition among the various species will likely change their relative numbers, and re-inoculation with the contents of a probiotic capsule can be used to restore to the original composition.)