Go ahead: Have a delicious bowl of Bacterial Count Amplification System, BCAS, topped with some blueberries.
Not very appetizing? Well, that’s what we have been calling “yogurt,” even though the FDA would tell us not to use that terminology. They would tell us that, in order to be labeled yogurt, we would have to ferment our starting dairy product with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. But you and I are not selling this product, so we do not have to adhere to FDA guidelines. We can call it anything we like even though L. reuteri is used to ferment. I call it “yogurt” only because it looks and tastes like yogurt, but the biological effects on those of us who consume are completely and wildly different than what you experience consuming the everyday commercial product you buy in plastic containers at the supermarket.
I’ve written about these issues before. But, judging by social media conversations, many people have still not gotten the memo on these issues. In a recent conversation, for instance, someone proclaimed that they make kefir and thereby obtain all the benefits of the L. reuteri yogurt. Oh, boy.
Let’s begin with the issue of strain specificity. You have E. coli in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Your partner, children, and neighbors have E. coli in their GI tracts. But eat Romaine lettuce contaminated by cow manure with the O157:H7 strain of E. coli and you can die of a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome and kidney failure—same species, different strain.
It means that we must be mindful of bacterial strains. Unfortunately, most commercial probiotics and even many scientific studies fail to specify strains of bacteria. You therefore have no idea whether the probiotic you are taking to abbreviate post-antibiotic diarrhea contains the strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus that actually provides this benefit, the GG strain, because it is not listed on the label, a major oversight. The strains of L. reuteri that we know yield the effects we desire—reduced skin wrinkles, increased dermal collagen, accelerated healing, restoration of youthful muscle and strength, preservation of bone density, reduced appetite, deeper sleep with extended REM phases, increased feelings of empathy and desire for human connection—are DSM 17938 and ATCC PTA 6475 that we obtain through the BioGaia Gastrus product. (By the way, I believe I have found another strain that mimics all the effects of these other strains, as I made yogurt out of it and it recreated all the effects that I experienced with the DSM 17938 and ATCC PTA 6475. I have designed a human clinical trial to prove this, though delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and our inability to enroll participants due to social isolation. Stay tuned.)
But it means that commercial yogurt fermented with Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus yield none of these effects—different species, different strains, and, of course, typically fermented for four hours, not the 36 hours that we use to increase bacterial counts. Remember: Increases in bacterial counts behave just like compound interest–the longer you ferment, the exponentially greater the bacterial counts you obtain.
(Graph from Jago Trader on compound interest.)
Commercial yogurt fermentation is halted at the horizontal part of the curve, thereby yielding trivial bacterial counts. The method that I advocate in which we ferment for 36 hours, with bacteria nourished by adding prebiotic fibers at the start, yields bacterial counts at the upward vertical part of the curve, around 90 billion counts per 1/2 cup serving—exponentially higher.
Kefir is a somewhat different story. Traditional kefirs are fermented with the same species as commercial yogurt with the addition of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Bifidobacteria bifidum, Leuconostoc, fungal species, and others. Even if it contained L. reuteri, it is likely a different strain and present at lower numbers, as occurs when you have a mixed population of microbes that all compete for available resources (e.g., lactose). Kefirs are wonderful probiotic foods, but they do not recreate the effects of the L. reuteri yogurt—they are two entirely different things. Best of all, consume both.
The photo above shows my Gourmia sous vide device that I paid $79 for at Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a coupon. Unfortunately, once I began talking about all the extravagant benefits of L. reuteri yogurt, the price for this device on Amazon went up to $449. So I have been telling people to opt for the Luvele or MV Power yogurt makers that have variable temperature controls, or stick sous vide devices that have not experienced the same predatory price increases. All devices are available through the Wheat Belly Marketplace. For your future preparation, I shall be discussing how we ferment (dairy and otherwise) other bacterial species/strains to enjoy specific health benefits. Other species/strains may require very different fermentation efforts, e.g., fermentation at 125 degrees F. It is therefore helpful to choose a device that allows you to vary temperature settings, as well as time.