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Can yoghurt prolong your life?

The Russian biologist Ilya Mechnikov thought so. In the early 1900’s he studied and promoted eating yoghurt as a way of living a long and healthy life. He published a paper entitled “The Prolongation of Life” and together with colleague Paul Ehrlich, won the 1908 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for his breakthrough work on the human immune system.

Yoghurt the key probiotic

Mechnikov was fascinated by the fact that so many people living in Bulgaria lived to over 100 years of age. He studied their diet and found it to be high in cultured food, particularly yoghurt and felt that you could live to be 150 if you ate a lot of yoghurt. He tried it himself, eating fermented milk and yoghurt and noticed improvements in his health. Mechnikov identified the microbe present in the cultured Bulgarian yoghurt and named it Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. Lactobacillus Bulgaricus is one of the many microbes that have been shown to be beneficial for your health. The rest, as they say, is history. Mechnikov was able to establish that harmful bacteria in your intestines cause disease, and that the friendly bacteria present in yoghurt (and other fermented foods), which he called Probiotic, can kill the disease causing bacteria and so enhance and prolong your life. The probiotc bacteria in your body, the microbes or intestinal flora,  are essential for the breaking down and processing of the food you eat as well as ensuring that harmful bacteria are killed off. They manufacture vital nutrients and are essential for your immunity. Here are just some of the roles they play:

Probiotic bacteria promote healthy digestion

  • Producing enzymes that help digestion - making it easier and more efficient
  • Decreasing the permeability of the walls of your intestines (helps prevent leaky gut syndrome)
  • Lessening food sensitivities including lactose intolerance
  • Lessening inflammation of the walls of your intestines
  • Improving the consistency of stools – making them easier to pass and overcoming constipation

Probiotic bacteria enhance absorption and utilisation of nutrients

  • Increasing mineral absorption e.g. zinc, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, and phosphorous
  • Increasing vitamin production e.g. vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A, K, folic acid, biotin, and tocopherols

Probiotic bacteria promote detoxification

  • Killing cancer causing and mutant compounds
  • Reducing activity in biochemical pathways which produce toxic waste
  • Helping liver and gall bladder function
  • Helping cholesterol metabolism

Probiotic bacteria restore intestinal balance

  • Preventing  colonisation by non-beneficial organisms
  • Encouraging the production of antibacterial and antifungal compounds
  • Improving resistance to bad bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and H. pylori and enhances immunity

Why are cultured foods and Probiotics so important for you today?

Probiotics have become an important part of today’s nutrition because your body’s microbial populations have been drastically reduced by the use of antibiotics as well as other substances that are designed to kill germs and disease. Antibiotics kill bacteria both harmful and friendly without discrimination. In addition chlorinated tap water, pasteurisation and sterilisation of foods together with food preservatives, has meant that we are not replenishing our supplies of friendly microbes as we were 100 years ago. Your gut flora or beneficial bacteria should number in the trillions, and make up about 2.5 kilos of your total weight!!

How can these beneficial Probiotic bacteria help you?

Most diseases originate in your digestive system. When it’s healthy, not only does it keep you healthy, it produces the neurotransmitter Serotonin that makes you feel good too! Some of the conditions that respond to good healthy gut flora are:
  • Autism and learning disabilities in children
  • ADD
  • Neurological disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • OCD
  • Depression
  • Immune disorders
  • Digestive problems
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lupus
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic skin conditions
  • Kidney problems
  • Urinary conditions
  • Allergies
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
Quite a list! Which only serves to confirm how much a healthy gut is essential for total health and longevity.

How do you get enough Probiotics?

In order to maintain your gut flora at optimum levels it is necessary to replace and add to it on a regular basis and this you can do quite easily by eating these cultured foods:
  • Yoghurt (sugar and additive free)
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut (unpasteurised)
  • Kimchi
  • Traditionally fermented, pickled vegetables – olives cucumbers, artichokes, mushrooms etc. (unpasteurised)
  • Fermented soy products Natto, Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Kombucha Tea
These are the main ones but any cultured food will add to the diversity of your gut flora and the more diverse the better. The greater the variety and the broader the spectrum of cultured foods the happier your digestion will be. You can make cultured foods yourself at home, but if you are buying them, please note that it is very important that these foods are not pasteurised (which kills off the good bacteria) nor contain any chemical additives. Probiotics are also available as a nutritional supplement and the ones that contain the most bacteria usually contain several different strains. So check the label before you buy and “Ask a Naturopath” at the Mr Vitamins store for further advice on the right product for you. Mr Vitamins in proud to support the MINDD Foundationwhich helps many children and their parents overcome health issues and uses principles which are based on establishing healthy gut flora and with it healthy minds and bodies.