There is more bacteria in and on our body, than human cells. We are outnumbered ten to one. You might even say that we are more bacteria than human. The implications of this are becoming more and more evident.
Bacteria influence our health in hundreds of ways. Everyday there are new discoveries on how these microorganisms interact with human physiology.
I recently came across an article in Nature showing that DNA can actually be transferred from bacteria to human cells. It discusses how bacteria found on nori (the seaweed used to make sushi) have transferred their genetic material to Japanese people. This gives Japanese individuals the ability to digest carbohydrates in the seaweed that North American individuals are unable to digest.
The benefits of consuming probiotics (“pro” meaning “for”, “biotic” meaning “life”) are truly abundant.
Some Benefits of Probiotics (1)
- Regulate the immune system
- Prevent diarrhea and constipation
- Decrease inflammation
- Reverse allergies
- Treat/prevent yeast infections
- Promote strong bones
- Prevent cancer
- Relieve acid reflux
Most indigenous cultures consume at least one fermented and/or cultured food. And chances are our great grandparents included cultured food in their diets as well.
Nowadays most people don’t even know what a fermented/cultured food is. Some examples are sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, pickles, kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, and some cheeses. These foods inoculate our digestive tracts with good bacteria (probiotics).
The cultured foods that are available are usually of the lowest quality and advertised to consumers through clever marketing. An example of one of these products is Activia yoghurt by Danone.
There is Animal Feces in my Yoghurt
Activia uses a strain of bacteria known as Bifidobacterium Animalis (B. animalis) which they sometimes label as Bifidus Regularis (more on this in a moment). Just to give you a bit of background, bacteria species that are normally found in humans are not found in animals and visa versa. B. animalis (as the nomenclature suggests) comes from animals. In fact, it is found in the feces of rats, chickens, rabbits, calfs, and in sewage.(2)
So why, you may ask, do they add this particular strain to their yoghurt? The answer is, this strain helps humans to be more “regular”. This is why their marketing ploy involves suggesting consumers take on the “Activia challenge.” This involves consuming their product for 14 days to see if it helps get your digestive system “back on track” or your money back.
Here’s the BIG catch, once you stop eating Activia, your digestion goes right back to the way it was. The reason is that since B. animalis is not a resident of the human digestive tract, it eventually gets eliminated. In addition, it displaces the gut flora that should be taking up residence in your gut.(3)
I regularly tell my clients that if a food has a label and even worse, a health claim, stay away from it. We have seen once again an example of this being true.
- Tannis, Allison. Probiotic Rescue. Wiley: 2008.
- Ishibashi et al. Bifidobacteria: their significance in human intestinal health. Mal J Nutr 3: 149-159;1997.
- Salminen et al. Lactic Acid Bacteria: Microbiological and Functional Aspects. Third Edition. Marcel Dekker Inc.:2004.