Kimchi & Sauerkraut Experimenters: A Distinct Pattern Emerges

I’m really happy to see that some reader reports from Kimchi and Sauerkraut experimenters have started to pop up in the comments — people looking to repeat my L. plantarum & eczema experiment to see if they get similar results. And I’ve noticed that a distinct pattern has emerged from these reports: slow but noticeable improvement. Progress seems to be slower than mine. And for that reason, there’s a less definite causal link. When progress is slower, it’s much harder to connect it to a specific cause. After all, skin conditions progress in waves and are expected to both improve and worsen over time. But if the sauerkraut or kimchi that readers are consuming are the cause of this slow but noticeable improvement, then there is probably a good explanation for why my experiment produced quicker results, and thus more defined causality.

First, the reports. Reader Wilbur first reported that he, too, struggled with eczema in the past but that this winter was the first where he did not experience the symptoms. This happened to be the first winter that Wilbur was consuming sauerkraut and kimchi. Because Wilbur’s family members were also suffering from eczema, he decided to see if kimchi would help them:

I’ve only been able to work with one person, but I can say after 5 days of radish kimchi that the eczema in that person is very clearly receding and, in a few spots, is completely gone. From prior experience, it would not have done this on its own. This person also did not use any of the usual medical remedies.

Wilbur then followed up:

We’ve had an odd set of results. Patient 1 described above does indeed have receding eczema except that we noticed a new patch today. It’s possible we missed it before, but I don’t know how. Patient 2 has seen no effects from kimchi, and a new patch appeared today. I, on the other hand, have the best skin I’ve had in many years.

Reader Jason H. reports:

Day 5 – I’m eating 4-5 fork loads of the Farmhouse kraut per day and I believe that my knuckle has improved a small amount. I’m also keeping an eye on my ankles. They get dry and scaly in the winter and I never even thought of it being eczema related. There has been no improvement so far.

And reader Hielkje then reported:

For a while now a have one finger with eczema. Not very extreme, just a slightly more red, dryer en the lines more pronounced. Sometimes gaps arise, especially after cleaning. A few weeks ago, I had a small pimple underneath my finger. It itched for three weeks and very slowly disappeared. The day before I read this article, came another. Since I had sauerkraut in the fridge, I immediately started eating a couple of spoons. Raw of course. Now I have eaten it six out of the seven days. After the second day I saw the pimple became soft and smaller. The third day it was gone. Great, very happy. The skin of my finger has become a little more softer but is still dry. The color is now almost identical to my other fingers.

In my experiment, I noticed clear and dramatic results within 3 days. Why might this be? Well, the main difference between my experiment and the experiment of these readers is that, instead of consuming fermented foods, I instead took a probiotic pill that solely contained L. plantarum — the primary bacteria found in sauerkraut and kimchi. This pill contains 10 billion colony forming units of L. plantarum.

How does that compare to sauerkraut and kimchi? The data on this is extremely sparse, and considering how much fermented products can vary, we’ll have to assume that what we come up with is a very ballpark number. But from this sauerkraut production study, which I’ve repeatedly found to be one of the only studies that delves sufficiently into this question, we find that L. plantarum is a) the predominant bacterial species in sauerkraut; and b) is found to be at a concentration of 10 million CFU per ml of product. (I was also able to find some real-world confirmation on this product page, which states that based on independent lab tests, this brand of sauerkraut contains about 7.8 million CFU. So we really might not be that far off).

One standard serving of sauerkraut or kimchi comes out to about 4 tablespoons, which is about 60 ml of product. That is very close to my stated daily average of about four forkfuls. I assume readers are consuming around the same amount. We’ll also have to assume that, on average, sauerkraut and kimchi do not have widely divergent concentrations (sourness/acidity is a pretty decent measure of fermentation, and I’ve never noticed a big difference in sourness between the two). So given those numbers, here is the comparison:

Fermented food: 600 million CFU of L. plantarum / day

Probiotic capsule: 10 billion CFU of L. plantarum / day

Why does this make a difference? It’s quite likely that, as with any kind of intervention, to achieve a clinically significant effect you’d have to reach a specific concentration. When I first experienced remission from eczema in the winter, it was after consuming these fermented foods for months on an almost daily basis (I started consuming them in the spring of 2011). I had plenty of time to build up a concentration of L. plantarum in my body from these foods. From this study, we see that there was a significant difference between groups who were administered L. plantarum for 15 days and 30 days. And it found that it takes about 15 days after the discontinuation of L. plantarum administration for the bacteria to become undetected. So it does seem that administration has a cumulative effect, and slowly diminishes after consumption ends.

My experiment showed that it took three daily doses of 10 billion CFU to eradicate the eczema. At that rate, for those attempting the same with sauerkraut or kimchi, it would take 50 days to achieve similar results.

Now, I actually think it might not take quite that long — we have to allow for the fact that, regardless of reaching the right concentration, human skin can only heal so quickly. Perhaps I reached the required concentration on the second day. Maybe even the first. But regardless, these two different interventions will likely require different durations to achieve the same result.

This is also the reason I tend to favor interventions that will achieve results as quickly and dramatically as possible when engaging in personal experiments. That’s one of the reasons I decided to use a probiotic pill this time, rather than simply eating the fermented foods again. It’s really important to establish causality first — I can always go back to the fermented foods later. Delayed results can decrease motivation in continuing the experiment, and will result in some level of questioning. Now that I’ve established causality to a sufficient degree, I can freely go back to the fermented foods.

— Heisenbug

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76 thoughts on “Kimchi & Sauerkraut Experimenters: A Distinct Pattern Emerges

  1. For reasons I am not even sure myself, I have not spent much time on this topic. Maybe because sauerkraut is a regular here in our kitchen and at the table. And I did not think I had a problem with eczema. Dry skin in the winter? sure. A bit of peeling off of skin? sure Reddish skin underneath? That too, but that is new skin right? Almost always on thumb, index and middle. So it was Hielkje’s comment that got my attention: you mean this is eczema? I’m going to be even more in her debt (I already owe her the Russian link)
    But I’ll get to the point. We have always used sauerkraut but almost always with mashed potatoes and heated. Since this winter we have started adding it to our morning salad (with the bacon and eggs) instead of a vinaigrette , and just a little mayo. It is in this winter that I have had hardly of this peeling with sore red skin underneath. And no cracked skin. We always make our own. Love the squeezing of the cabbage slivers until there is enough moisture to keep the whole mush covered.

    • James, I think there are many people like you. Eczema is insanely prevalent — about 10% of the population they say. Many don’t even realize they have it. Interesting that it subsided for you too.

  2. It seems to me that people’s gut biomes are going to be so different that I don’t see how it’s possible to have precise expectations of how long a condition will take to clear up. And in addition, the rest of their diet is going to affect how effective the intervention is. For instance, if the rest of a person’s diet contains enough raw material to feed any new bacteria colonies, the intervention will take hold faster, and if not, the intervention will take longer, or not have positive effects at all.

    • Controlling variables is always an issue with this kind of thing, but I’m actually not too worried about the ones you mention. If my hypothesis about how this is working is correct, it’s essentially because you are introducing a germ that elicits a (good) immune response. Diet shouldn’t really play much of a role in that (but who knows). And I don’t really see how existing gut biome affects this too much either. My reading of this is that it is mostly taking place in the small intestine.

      • Mostly agree, Mr. H. And I think the whole line of investigation you’re talking is extremely valuable. My only point is that there are so many variables here that predicting time-to-results is going to be difficult-to-impossible. I’ve been working with people on nutritional interventions for decades, and for any particular intervention it’s going to be miraculous for some, neutral for others, and (apparently) negative for others. That in no way takes away from the experiment here, which is really interesting, and an approach to this condition I haven’t seen before. I’m probably just being pendantic…

      • Your point about the actions mostly happening in the small intestine are definitely well-taken. That makes a lot of sense. I still think it’s affected by the rest of the system, but perhaps less than I implied.

  3. @ Charles Richardson, You think it is new bacteria colonies that this is dependent on? or are we providing the ones that are there with a better presence?

    • On the basis of absolutely nothing, I’d say I haven’t a clue, and I would imagine each individual is different, so I don’t know if that question is answerable without a lot more evidence. But since it’s getting results, it’s probably interesting, but irrelevant to the people getting relief. I think everyone starts out from such different places from distal large intestine up to the bacteria in the mouth, and we don’t have an easy way to measure or interpret what’s going on. We just have to try these macro-interventions (resistant starch, fermented foods, probiotics) and see what works.

  4. I don’t care for sauerkraut much. So I was reluctant to join this experiment. However I suffer from hand eczema badly for 3 years now (I’m a desk worker). It appeared out of nowhere and it is controlling my life ever since. It’s got a (about) 4 week cycle, winter or summer. It flares up for about 3 to 4 nights in a row with extreme ichtiness. After I (of course) scratch the hell out, it resides. Leaving my hand intensely dry, red and very very calloused on the inside and outside. Even my fingertips are effected. Which is very inconvenient since I drop things out of my hands because of it. It feels like I have hardened melted candle wax on it. I always wonder if it could be something else, but my doctor insists it is hand eczema. Nothing seems to elevate the symptoms, accept antihistamine against the itch attack.

    I now struggle every day to eat 4 forks of sauerkraut for 3 days. Conclusion: I really hate sauerkraut. But I’ve noticed that the skin on my fingertips is getting softer and sensation is somewhat returned. Still a long way to go, maybe even the full 50 days you mentioned, but I’m going for it. No prescription ever had the same effect for me.

    • If you really dislike sauerkraut, as I do, have you considered getting some of the L plantarum capsules? I think that is what I’m going to do.

      Now I have a question: if L plantarum is associated with eczema, is it also associated with any other auto-immune diseases? Or do we have a different disease that’s associated with a lack of or overgrowth of particular bacteria?

      • It’s a good question. There definitely seems to be transferability to other allergic-type diseases (asthma, rhinitis, etc.) in the research. Whether or not there is transferability to all immune-related diseases, I do not know.

    • That definitely sounds like hand eczema, dojo. It’s no fun at all and can be quite debilitating. I’m glad you are braving it and giving the sauerkraut a try. I really hope it works for you. Thanks for reporting in — please keep us updated.

    • Yes, that is exactly what I had prior to this year. Now I have none. Zero. It’s so wonderful.

      My thoughts are, given Heisenbug’s post, that fermented foods are possibly more for maintenance than for getting rid of a full-blown case. I’ve been eating fermented foods regularly since I got interested in fermenting my own foods. So I had my supply built up right as it was getting cold because this is the best time to ferment veggies. I was sampling stuff every day to know when to refrigerate for probably two months or more.

      I’ve done just a very brief search on “sources of l plantarum” and it seems to confirm my intuition that other fermented veggies can also be sources, as well as some cheeses and sausage. I am personally not crazy about eating a lot of cabbage, so I stick to kimchi made from scallions, leeks, or radishes that I buy from a Korean grocery. I love pickled okra and garlic. I also make fermented hot sauces that I suspect are also good sources. You might want to do further investigation to find a more tolerable food.

      I remember how much that hurt. Best of luck!

    • Someone on a blog in Holland said she mixed her saurkraut with a grated carrot and half an apple grated. I don’t like saurkraut much either, so i thought I would give that a try. It helps quite a bit to disguise the sour taste and you get some other raw vegetable too boot. Might it be worth a try for you?

  5. Does L plantarum have a preferred food source (like potato starch)? I’m wondering if there’s a snow ball effect if you’re also supplementing with something like PS???

    • Good question. Lactobacillus will feed on the usual suspects — FOS, resistant starch, etc. I have been supplementing with a little of these lately, so I do wonder if perhaps there is an additive effect. It certainly wouldn’t hurt. But I did not supplement with these when I was eating kimchi/sauerkraut, so it clearly isn’t a requirement to get the eczema-clearing effect.

  6. Hi Mr Hisenbug,

    I’ve recently begun my own journey into microbiome modification and have found the results impressive. With just PS I’ve been able to completely eliminate many health problems that would persist despite extremely restrictive diets and supplementation. 5 years of ailments, gone in two weeks.

    I think we all want the same thing, permanent colonization of beneficial probiotics. I understand that permanent colonization of probiotics that are not indigenous to the gut is impossible (currently). With that being said, what do you think about replacing indigenous strains with stronger versions of themselves? Would they stick? Or be kicked out by the normal strains? I got the idea when looking at Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC 6475.

    Check out this study on this specific “super-strain”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24392159. If this study is valid and unbiased, the implications are astounding.

    With that said, I’ve found the specific strain for sale from ATCC here: http://www.atcc.org/products/all/PTA-6475.aspx. It doesn’t list the quantity, so I am assuming it will come frozen in a test tube for culturing?

    Do you know what’s involved in culturing single-strains at home? How would I feed it?

    My dream would be to have live active permaculture that I can stick a spoon into every day for a hefty dose of exotic super-strain gut bugs, without the ridiculous costs of the same generic 12 Lacto strains or so found in probiotics today.
    If we can devise an easy, affordable way to do this at home, it could seriously revolutionize health.

    • Is there something special about that L. reuteri? Reuteri is pretty common in probiotics. Culturing at home is an intriguing idea. The best way would probably be to keep a constant dairy (yogurt) ferment going, “backslopping” one ferment to a new one every so often.

      The issue with colonization isn’t so much whether they are indigenous or not. It just seems to be the case that exogenously consumed bacteria do not attach to the mucus layer, and therefore do not colonize, requiring them to be continually consumed.

      • Much less data on SBO’s, but my sense is that it’s even more true for SBO’s. Wouldn’t soil-based organisms prefer…soil? They’re just hitching a ride, and waiting to be deposited somewhere else. And the theory behind SBO’s is that we need constant exposure to soil bacteria. If they colonized, we wouldn’t need the constant exposure.

      • Your colon is warm, and dark and moist (at least mine is!) That sounds like a pretty inviting environment for bacteria. My understanding is that some colonization is possible and does occur. But I’ll look for references…

      • From skimming the patent, it looks like they selectively bred this strain to deactivate inflamation and immune response (by deactivating the signal protein interleukin-17), which it does more efficiently than other L. reuteri (sorry for long link). I would liken it to selectively breeding high-yielding crops throughout generations.

        http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=7,344,867%20.PN.&OS=PN/7,344,867%20&RS=PN/7,344,867

        Since L. reuteri is a universal gut organism (throughout the animal kingdom too),
        its very intriguing that this specific strain induced the effects from the study. Check out these photos from the study to get a good TL;DR. The results are drastic, considering the mice should have already had L. reuteri (the weaker, natural strain) in their gut.


        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879365/figure/pone-0084877-g001/

        If we can induce permanent colonization, we can use it as a tool to “upgrade” our existing strains to stronger and higher-yielding and more prolific ones like this specific strain. Exciting stuff.

      • @MH Yes, it does come down on the side of no colonization.

        @Kevin K: I think this is an interesting point of divergence in the discussion. Some would argue (and I tend to agree) that these bacteria have evolved a whole ecosystem over a couple of million years, with an incredible amount of intelligence embodied in that ecosystem, and what we would best do is give the good guys the food they want (i.e., resistant starch), add in some exogneous bacteria we thing are good, and basically allow them to manage the colonies.

        The other approach is what you’re suggesting. “But there lie dragyns…” Or possibly so. We might think we know what we’re doing, but beware unintended consequences, as we add bacteria that seem like a good idea at the time, but might crowd out other colonies that have long-term functions that we don’t have a clue about.

        We barely understand the various bacterial strains now, and we have little or no idea about the evolution over time, the interactions. I’d be really wary of ingesting a colonizing bacteria that someone came up with in a lab. We know, for instance, that adding resistant starch in the form of potato starch has a profound effect on bacterial strains that we are pretty sure are good ones.

        So I’m a bacterial luddite at this point, and probably for a while. I trust the bacteria more than I trust our knowledge of them.

      • I think I can agree with Charles’ comment. We are in fairly uncharted waters with this. You may be introducing aliens. As far as the immune response goes, I think it might be involved. The problem occurs mainly on the extremities. Maybe athlete’s foot has the same issue. A fungus that manages to get a foot hold sounds to me a lack of proper response from the immune system. Maybe an immune system that is already too busy fighting fires elsewhere?

      • Yes, there is something special about that strain of L reuteri. Different strains of the same bug can have markedly different, even opposite effects. If you read the paper “Exploring Metabolic Pathway Reconstruction and Genome-Wide Expression Profiling in Lactobacillus reuteri to Define Functional Probiotic Features” by Saulnier et al., (PLOS One, open access) you will see this clearly demonstrated. For example:

        “Finally, a stark contrast with respect to features of immunomodulation (TNF stimulation in the case of 55730 and TNF suppression in the case of 6475) may
        depend on multiple differences in genetic features.
        Although the two L. reuteri strains belong to the same species, genome comparisons revealed that only 70% of the genes were shared between strains 55730 and 6475. The genomic and functional diversity within a single probiotic species emphasizes the need for strains to be clearly distinguished and verified in
        experimental studies.”

        6475 is available in only one commercial supplement that I can find, BioGaia Gastrus. It doesn’t appear to be sold in many countries (yet). A sample can be obtained from ATCC, at considerable cost.

    • You might try looking into kefir fermented milk products, this Information was found on Dom’s website
      LACTOBACILLI
      Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lb. brevis [Possibly now Lb. kefiri],Lb. casei subsp. casei
      Lb. casei subsp. rhamnosus,Lb. paracasei subsp. paracasei, Lb. fermentum, Lb. cellobiosus, Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lb. delbrueckii subsp. lactis, Lb. fructivorans, Lb. helveticus subsp. lactis, Lb. hilgardii, Lb. helveticus, Lb. kefiri,
      Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefirgranum, Lb. kefiranofaciens subsp. kefiranofaciens,
      Lb. parakefiri, Lb. plantarum
      STREPTOCOCCI/LACTOCOCCI

      Streptococcus thermophilus, St. paracitrovorus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
      Lc. lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis, Lc. lactis subsp. cremoris,
      Enterococcus durans, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris, Leuc. mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides, Leuc. dextranicum

      YEASTS Dekkera anomala t/ Brettanomyces anomalus a, Kluyveromyces marxianus t/ Candida kefyr a#, Pichia fermentans t/ C. firmetaria a, Yarrowia lipolytica t/ C. lipolytica a, Debaryomyces hansenii t/ C. famata a#, liDeb. [Schwanniomyces] occidentalis, Issatchei aenkia orientas t/ C. krus, Galactomyces geotrichum t/ Geotrichum candidum a, C. friedrichii, C. rancens, C. tenuis, C. humilis, C. inconspicua, C. maris, Cryptococcus humicolus, Kluyveromyces lactis var. lactis #
      Kluyv. bulgaricus, Kluyv. lodderae, Saccharomyces cerevisiae #, Sacc. subsp. torulopsis holmii, Sacc. pastorianus, Sacc. humaticus, Sacc. unisporus, Sacc. exiguus
      Sacc. turicensis sp. nov, Torulaspora delbrueckii t, * Zygosaccharomyces rouxii,

      ACETOBACTER, Acetobacter aceti, Acetobacter rasens

      Microbial Composition of Kefir at End of Fermentation [colony forming units/ml] **
      Lactococci : 1,000,000,000
      Leuconostocs : 100,000,000
      Lactobacilli : 5,000,000
      Yeast : 1,000,000
      Acetobacter : 100,000

      Go to Dom’s site, he appears to be very sincere with informing people about kefir.
      http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html#microflora

  7. Don’t forget that some people might have no response at all just because their eczema is caused by something entirely different than the others regardless of following proper protocol. I’m engaged in the experiment to see if it has any effect on my moderate persistent asthma and sinus problems. In only 5 days I’ve seen a significant reduction but not outside of possible normal bounds. I’ll wait another 15 days to make sure its not a regular cycle for me. One odd things I’ve noticed, I usually would need chapstick with our very low temperatures and dry air. I’ve forgotten to put it on and I they feel perfect.

    • Good point. Though I haven’t seen any cause of eczema that doesn’t somehow involve a malfunctioning immune response, it’s certainly possible that for some, the probiotic approach might not get to the root of it. Very curious about sinus/asthma effects — keep us updated.

      • Yeah, but we never seem to know what we don’t know. One example might be sleep. While your microbiome might be fine, you can damage your immune system by not sleeping or having bad sleep from something like sleep apnea.

      • See also the recent interview Seth Rogers had with Mike McInnes that I found in my inbox http://blog.sethroberts.net/2014/01/02/interview-with-mike-mcinnes-author-of-the-honey-diet/ Quite interesting his interview with the retired pharmacist who wrote the honey book. We may not know what we don’t know, and maybe what know we know, ain’t necessarily so. In other words it makes all the sense in the world that we keep coming up with the most unlikely scenarios because in the world of our gut biome we are really dealing with astronomical possibilities.

      • S**t why would I change a b into a g in my previous comment. At least the link is okay. B stands for Brain and G stands for Gut. Was this a Fehlleistung. My gut wanting more attention?

      • Just a quick update. I’ve taking the probiotic for just this week (twice a day plus some kimchi when I can + I started eating Kimchi at the beginning of last week) and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements. My feet have always had dry, itchy skin which has just disappeared. I have a cronic bunionette, a bunion on the outside edge of the foot, that has softened dramatically. My Rosacea hasn’t changed at all. Sinuses seem better but I’m still holding off on weather this intervention is helping. The most dramatic change has been in my lower respiratory area. My lungs are nearly free of mucus. I don’t remember a time that they were this clear.

      • So would you say both the dry/itchy skin and the respiratory improvements wouldn’t have improved this dramatically, or at all, otherwise? They are always present? Thanks for the report — please keep us updated.

      • I wouldn’t have expected any change at all without the addition of the supplement and kimchi. The clear lungs and foot skin change have gone on more than long enough for me to believe in some type of correlation. I’ll have to wait and see how well my lungs do in spring. Still not sure if it is doing anything for my upper respiratory system. Another thing that I noticed over the weekend, my gums have become a lot less healthy and I no longer have any bleeding at all. This has been a major concern of mine and I’ve tried quite a few things to fix it without being able to make any major effect. The closest I got was with fish oil but it didn’t come close to what I am experiencing now. Even vigorous brushing doesn’t cause any bleeding at all.

      • Wow, that’s great that you’ve had so many improvements. The gum stuff is really interesting — bleeding gums are almost certainly a result of inflammation. I wonder if the same anti-inflammatory effect that caused improvements in lungs and skin led to that effect as well.

  8. Hey Shant, I just wanted to say thank you for starting up this blog. It’s very interesting and right on time with all the discussion surrounding the microbiome. I think it’s great that your helping to re-define “fiber” and what it can do for us.

  9. Quite the ranging discussion. If I may, a few thoughts in no particular order:

    1) I’m with Charles on preferring the Luddite approach. What we don’t know vastly outweighs what we do know. History is replete with stories of well intentioned scientist trying to fix an ecosystem only to seriously disrupt it to the negative. In fact there’s a word for it: hubris. 🙂

    2) Regarding culturing one’s own bacterial strains into a super-yogurt, my understanding is it’s not a trivial task. Commercial yogurt cultures are not robust and people that try making their own yogurt using a store-bought yogurt as the starter often comment that after 2-4 cycles the yogurt doesn’t ferment properly and they have to go back and buy more yogurt from the store to restart the process. Further there is a web site that sells special heirloom strains of yogurt that are robust against foreign invaders and can reliably be re-used indefinitely.

    3) Was it this blog that had the link to the kombucha article from the mid 90’s or so? That one talked about the fact that what you start with isn’t necessarily what you end with after multiple generations of microbes all competing for survival in the same “jungle.”

    4) Regarding making one’s own sauerkraut, I understand it doesn’t typically require any starter, relying on whatever is naturally found in the air and surface of the cabbage. However, has anyone thought or read about inoculating their cabbage with a commercial kraut they particularly like? I’ve been thinking of making my own and I’m more than a little bit drawn to the idea of kick-starting it with a known quantity. Is that unheard of?

    Cheers.

    • Thanks, Allan. We were in need of your yogurt expertise around here. The question of generational survivability was lurking for me as well. I’d certainly be a little wary if I were relying on it for medicinal purposes. But then we have the case of Mutaflor, the brand name of a beneficial strain of E. coli that’s been in clinical use for a long time with apparently very good results. It’s sold in Canada and Europe, but is banned in the U.S. for whatever reason. As a result, it seems a dedicated and enterprising group of people are culturing it themselves with yogurt. But like you I’m still wary, especially regarding concentration levels.

      Re: sauerkraut, you don’t need a starter at all. But “backslopping” is a common practice — using a little bit of a mature product to inoculate a new one, with the intention of transferring the quality and characteristics. I plan to try this with my favorite store bought sauerkraut soon. Farmhouse Culture, if you can find it near you.

      • Making sure you begin with good organic cabbage or any other vegetable is essential, especially if you are culturing from what’s on the cabbage and within the air. I sterilize everything first anyway, to decrease unwanted bacteria from the ferment. It is best to use fresh cabbage, it is juicer and has better favor, otherwise your kraut will not produce much internal juice, then you must add some salted water to the mix. There are many people making it and posting their methods online, just dive in. I recommend the Pickler type jar over the Hausch crock type container. The pickler is less expensive and jar easier to handle than a large crock, but I use both.
        Sauerkraut is eaten like a condiment, you eat it with other food. You eat a little of this and that and some sauerkraut and before you know it you’ve eaten a 1/4 c. , I’ve never eaten it alone more like grazing.
        Using a starter culture hastens the fermenting time to a week instead of 4-6 weeks the old. I prefer mother nature’s way. But for those of you who would like to start with a culture, Donna’s Bodyecology blend works well.
        http://bodyecology.com/weight-loss-vegetable-culture-starter.html#sthash.kka9g7yj.dpbs

    • Yes, inoculating is a common practice. Some use whey. You can buy expensive cultures. Sandor Katz, fermentation guru, says that one downside is that the product does not taste as good because the fermentation process is less complete. When the cabbage is first put in the jar, it is not very acidic. The first bacteria thrive in a not so acidic environment and have byproducts that feed the next generation of bacteria and increase acidity. The first generation dies, the next feeds the third, so on. What you taste in the final product is the final generation along with what the previous generations left behind.

      I have inoculated hot sauces and they are indeed less interesting than ones I did not. I haven’t with other stuff.

      One benefit it inoculating is there is less of a chance your ferment might go bad.

      • Thanks for filling me in. If Mr. H doesn’t mind yet more topic drift, how’s the hot sauce work for you? That’s been on my list to try.

      • The hot sauce was the best thing to come out of my fermenting. I love really hot peppers (fatalli, chocolate habanero, etc.) and I could never figure out how to preserve them. This definitely works, and it’s fantastic. My favorite salsa is El Yucateco Kutbil-ik, but it has preservatives. I replicated it by using the ingredient list minus the vinegar. I have to say mine is better, hotter, and probiotic to boot. Definitely give it a shot!

      • My ferments don’t go bad and I don’t innoculate in the case of fermented vegetables, but on the other hand I use good technique. I think that it is a counterproductive practice in the majority of cases, unless one has a very clear reason for propogating a particular strain. Diversity in gut microbial populations is important.

      • Actually I’m using the Viili from Cultures for Health. A shop down the street from me sells their products so that made my decision. I suspect there’s not a difference among them. My wager is that there’s one company with the equipment for drying the bacteria and they make it for everyone else that resells it. The vitamin and supplement biz is notorious for that model. Buy bulk at wholesale, repackage in cut container, mark-up 10x, sell retail. But yes, the room temp fermentation is what got me hooked.

      • Hello, this company sells fresh dairy cultures that they’ve been growing for 34 years, they are a small family run business and they’re very dedicated to keeping these cultures alive. They are low tech and no frills with their website. I have used their cultures for 20 years and they always arrive in good shape and grow well, I am the one who stops taking care of them and must reorder more. The lovely part about using these cultures is, you grow your own! Instructions come with your order on how to keep it alive for years. You use your home made culture to inoculate the next batch. There are no labels that “say only good for one batch”. You grow it.
        http://www.gemcultures.com/dairy_cultures.htm

      • The best kefir cultures I’ve ever gotten are from kefirlady.com. She’s in the Midwest somewhere, and the kefir grains I’ve gotten from her are incredibly healthy and prolific. As someone else mentioned, I’ve screwed them up from time to time and have to order more, but it’s never been the fault of the grains themselves. Highly recommended.

    • You are assuming that the commercial kraut is superior to what you make at home. I have actually found just the opposite with our homemade kraut. If you try to short circuit the process by adding a starter I believe that your results, both in terms of quality of taste and of bacterial diversity will be negatively affected as there is a natural progression that takes place during the fermentation process, where one group of bacteria becomes more prominent than another as conditions in the local environment change to favor it’s growth.

  10. A general comment – just want to say that I am really enjoying binge-reading your fantastic blog. I slogged through the resistant starch/gut bug info on other well-known (and very informative but a little unhinged at times?) blogs but your insight, clarity and lack of clutter (that I often can’t follow) is so helpful. It is a huge relief for someone who is very interested in the science but not as good at ‘sciencey’ thinking as she’d like. My mind has certainly been blown in the last few weeks by this information (I’m a little late but better than never) but the stuff you’re going into is, well, I guess re-blowing it? Thanks for sharing your insights – keep it coming!

    • ”other well-known (and very informative but a little unhinged at times?” LOL! I know where you have been JLow. Won’t find find references to this blog anymore.. I guess. Of course there always different ways of going about things, I like this way better

      • James – I hear you! I like a little crazy as much as the next person but we need a healthy dose of some sanity to balance it out.

  11. This comment is a little off topic as it’s about fiber instead of probiotics.

    If I’m looking at the fiber content of a carrot, is it safe to say that is a somewhat accurate (given dimensions) measure of the total ferment-able fiber?

    For example, a medium carrot is listed as having about 1.7 g of fiber — would this number include the ferment-able fibers like pectin or scFOS?

    • 1.7g is the total fiber content. Some of that will be insoluble, and some of that soluble. It will be mostly insoluble (which most often means not fermentable). Carrots are pretty high in pectin (which is soluble), however. I don’t believe carrots contain much fructan (ie, scFOS).

      • Um, all I meant was imagine a set of common vegetables with the percent of fiber broken down by soluble and insoluble, then within those two types, further divide it into the constituent carbs. So, for a carrot we’d show 4.1g insoluble / 1.6g soluble. Then the insoluble is sub-divided into cellulose and … (is there anything else?), and the soluble is broken down into pectin and … ok, you got me again… whatever else.

        I’d need an intern to track down all the data. Sheesh, what did you all think I meant? 🙂

      • Ha — I’m with you, all I was thinking was a carrot! Unfortunately the organized data that is available only seems to go down to the level of total fiber. Eve soluble/insoluble seems pretty hard to find. Pretty much what you see on a nutrition label. I doubt the data on how this breaks down into specific fibers is available, save for isolated cases. And some fibers (like resistant starch, I believe) aren’t even included in these calculations.

      • Oh wow! I though for sure we were laughing about the boom of
        infographics across the net.

        I was really just looking for a more tasty source of scFOS instead of raw, or lightly cooked garlic, leeks, and onions; which are not workplace friendly. Maybe an infographic listing that?
        😛

  12. I am not sure where to follow up on Patients 1 and 2. Anyhow, patient 1 recovered from the asthma and cold, and likewise the (likely) new patch of eczema went away. This has never happened before! There is a confounding variable because I also increased the dose of radish kimchi by 50% or so.

    We are upgrading patient 2 to the pill form. There are several reasons to think it might be more uncooperative to lower dosage. I will let you know either way. If it fixes patient 2 in 3 days, this will truly be magic!

    • Congrats on Patient 1! Agreed — if the pill form does the trick for Patient 2, then we might just be onto something. Can’t wait to find out. Thanks, Wilbur, for taking the trouble to do this and keeping us updated.

  13. I suffer with rhinits for a long time. One thing that helped me a lot is nasal rinse at morning with 1 tsp of salt and half tsp of sodium bicarbonate at 500ml of lukewarm water. But the rhinits still afflicts me. Maybe it is a long shot, but I was thinking in add some mojo to my batch, like some drops of whey or sauerkraut water. That way, maybe, my nose will be “collonized” with better bacteria. Have you ever heard about something similar to that?

  14. I disagree with the numbers and the outcome when comparing fermented food to a pill form of probiotics. There should be trillions per serving of kraut or kimchi.to billions with pill form. The highest I have ever seen for a pill form was 100 billion which is much less than a good fermented food. I am living proof that the fermented food works much better as I have taken dozens of different pill forms from refrigerated to powder packs and everything in between. Mu tummy would feel better when taking pill or powder forms but my skin never cleared up. In just 2 weeks of eating kimchi my skin is almost all cleared up. I have been fighting a patch of irritated itchy skin on back of legs for years but thanks to the fermented food it’s all but gone. Nature does not make pills and it seems our generation is so pill happy that these kind of reports can work on the masses but not me anymore!!

  15. Hi! I just found your blog, so I’m a little late to the party.

    On the topic of L plantarum 299v–the Jarrow supplement you used–I think it’s worth mentioning that one can easily make yogurt from it. I’ve done it a few times just for fun. It isn’t the tastiest yogurt I’ve ever had, but it’s decent. So for folks who don’t like sauerkraut, why not make yogurt?

    (I’ve also done this with the proprietary L. casei strain cultured from Yakult yogurt.)

    I have found that most single-strain yogurts are very stable, and can be run by using a little of the previous yogurt as starter…as long as you are careful not to cross-contaminate it with different yogurts. Of course, in a kitchen setting, contamination is certain to occur eventually…

    I have also cycled through many batches of yogurt made from commercial yogurts. Some people claim not to be able to keep a batching system going from commercial yogurts. I have never had this problem; they seem to remain viable indefinitely. What I do notice, however, is that the flavor profile begins to drift after a few batches. (Sometimes actually improves; sometimes not so much.) I suspect the species composition shifts?

  16. I found your website today as I was looking at the L. Reuteri
    it is posted by Kevin K over a year ago. I had been on a lot of antibiotics the past year for a few different things starting with a surgery… the infection would not go away and repeated stronger drugs were used leaving me with drug induced colitis. I had a probiotic I have used a long time which usually worked well for me it did not seem to be up to this job so I went shopping.
    I came to L.Reuteri sensibly enough read reports of how it healed the gut some reports saying it contained antibiotic properties. I was convinced the product was safe as it was tested on infants to treat colic my thought was if a baby can take it surely it is safe. I bought the L.Reuteri ProTectis from the health food store a small yellow box in the fridge.
    I took 5 drops the amount suggested for infant and adult dose. It made me ill I had to go to bed. The next day the same thing… I was not sure there would be a 3rd day at that rate and searched why a probiotic would make a person ill. Found it could be a herx reaction and what to do about that… eat some pectin which I did and lowered my dose to 3 drops for 3 more days. The lower dose with apple sauce seemed ok.
    I then quit taking it.

    These are the things I noticed in order of appearance. Callous on my large toes just fell off… I coughed a lot and sneezed a lot then my lower lungs finally cleared… I had problems with them for along time… as part of that infection I could not get to leave. Stomach pain ended it as did upper gastric pain. My teeth stopped hurting. I had a feeling of something in the roof of my mouth at the back a long time… that came out as a form of nothing you want to tell people with some blood. My thinking cleared I had brain fog… got lost a couple times. Bp improved. I know what your thinking I am selling this or am crazy… I wonder the same about crazy but I know I am not selling it.

    Bad things or questionable things and partly why I stopped…
    So many changes all at one time was a bit much for me.. honestly this was a big deal but too much of a big deal in many ways. I felt really sick the first two days and wondered about those poor babies who did the tests on this who cannot talk. The entire time I was taking even when I wasn’t really sick I felt “different” in a way I can’t quite explain… my thinking was off. I needed extra rest and I feel my appetite is not what it was before taking it… Once while taking it I woke in the night to eat as I felt I was starving. After eating I returned to bed and slept…yep like a baby.

    Some aching in my body seems to be gone… I don’t know if this has anything to do with it or not I generally ache with storms and have not lately. It could be we have not had a bad enough storm I don’t know.

    Two reason I stopped it when I did. The odd thinking I was feeling not like myself though not particularly bad just different I don’t like different. I don’t drink booze for that reason I just don’t like different I like what I have I know I am boring. Odd feeling in lady parts like a swelling and of one side of my throat… both of these swelling feelings came on just one side… both the same side of the body. I looked at my throat and it looked different on the side that felt swollen but it did not look red or sore just oddly shaped. I did think perhaps there was a reason since my sinus had drained healed finally…perhaps there was more to do and my throat was next…but I decided to call it quits then. Perhaps I gave up too soon I can always try it again but I had enough for that experiment.

    After reading comments here I kind of wish I had not tried it but truly thought it was safe as it is sold in Europe to babies as such has to be tested and deemed safe. It is too late now but I may in future seek out food sources. This may well be the end of my experimenting though I have a nearly full bottle left. I am not sure yet we will see if I stay well.

    • Sandy I am not a doctor, just a researcher into the wonderful world of nutrition that apparently not even scientists who have studied it most of their lives, will readily admit that they really don’t know much about it. It seems that the more they discover the more they realize it is even more complicated.
      The herxheimer is a fairly normal one depending on how much you have to get rid of. If at the same time you have begun to eat a healthier diet, i.e. fewer carbs and more fats and veggies. However the fact that your gut biome might be changing may be enough to create an upset among the bad guys. And that’s where some of your problems could originate. A herx also, and often even more so, shows up when you go on a three day fast as I started doing recently. Dying bacteria release toxins and that’s probably the reason that people are often advised to start with it under doctor’s supervision. In your case I would suggest to take it very slowly and eating lots of fresh veggies and fruits. When fruits preferably very dark coloured ones because of the relative high anthocyanin and other flavonol content.
      Generally speaking probiotics are available from a wide variety of sources so pills are not really necessary. Another big help would be prebiotics. Cold potatoes (boiled) have resistant starch, so does potato starch. We still use a table spoon of potato starch in a bowl of yogurt. Start with less. If you have gone through this site you know the effect that resistant starch has on the good bacteria in your gut. For a good sleep you could take some honey in the yogurt in the evening. The sugars are of a different kind and the fructooligosaccharides in honey are also a resistant starch.
      But if your system reacts so strongly it could mean that you have quite a screwed up gut micro biome, which of course is not surprising considering the antibiotics.

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