Category Archives: probiotics


Do I ever get tired of the probiotic posts?


I went to a conference hosted by INR Seminars last week called “Probiotics, Food and the Immune system.” It was great! Lots of interesting examples and confirmations about how important and vital gut bacteria are to us.

A couple stand out. In the first, a woman received a fecal transplant from her daughter after a C. Diff infection. The recipient was normal weight prior to fecal transplant, but her daughter was obese. After the transplant, the recipient became obese. – So I know there are a lot of details missing like “did the recipient have any changes in diet/lifestyle that would explain the weight gain?” – there is plenty of research out there showing an imbalance of Fermicutes vs Bacteriodities, (high Ferm/low bac) is common among obese individuals. This is still correlation, or association and the “chicken or the egg” analogy stands- did the bacteria cause a person to become obese, or did the bacteria ratio change once a person became obese (due to food choices or because of exercise habits)? There are more questions than answers at this time, but that’s why it’s so fascinating.

The other than stood out to me was another fecal transplant patient. She had a history of Ulcerative colitis. She then had a fecal transplant from her husband. She was “cured” of UC until years later she had an unrelated illness requiring a hefty dose of antibiotics. After the antibiotics, her UC returned.

These are small sample sizes, (n=1) but they demonstrate the changes that might happen if one has a change in gut bacteria.

Coincidently, I received an email from someone at “” who asked if I could link them to their “Best Probiotics Supplement Review of 2018.” I did check it out and it could be a useful resource for people if they are curious which probiotics might be “best” since there are seemingly infinite choices out there now.

At the conference, the speaker talked about how buying the “best” probiotics may not do much for you if you don’t feed them. Taking the most potent, fancy, expensive and very reputable probiotic won’t help any issues if you just drink gatorade and eat Cheetos. A balanced healthy diet of meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, grains, and legumes will feed the probiotics and keep them happy and healthy. This may be as big of a reason why we encourage healthy eating. Feeding the “right” bacteria can have beneficial effects on healthy weight, a healthy gut, and a healthy brain.

More on that later.


Let me know if you do or do not take probiotics and if you feel better because of it or if you don’t.


Happy 2018

Another year is in full swing. We’ve had some blistering, record breaking cold weather here in Virginia over the past few weeks. Much colder than we’re used to and for a longer stretch of time than we’d like. We had a 3 day break where it swung all the way back up to 70 degrees, but now we’re back with the lows in the low teens and highs still below freezing.

Some small updates from SRTH. We still have three chickens who are braving the cold. They have a heated coop and a water heater to keep them hydrated. They are missing the grass since it’s been frozen and all eaten up with no regrowth yet. I’ve just started trying to sprout some extra chia seeds for them to see if they will go for that. I gave them a frozen/thawed soft pumpkin the other day. They seemed to enjoy the insides until it froze again and now it’s a solid mess of pumpkin mush and seeds.

As for me, if you read my GBS post from the summer, I’m happy to report I’m back to life as usual. Abilities are 100%. I’m still rebuilding strength to lift heavier and my feet/toes get a little tingly at the end of the day, but I’m not complaining. I’m running 3+ miles (when it’s not brutally cold out), lifting 3-5 days a week and riding my mountain bike when (again) the weather is respectable. I’m working part time as an outpatient dietitian at Specialty Nutrition and Health a couple times a week after my full time job at the hospital.

The new year is a time a lot of people use to start new habits, stop bad habits, make other life changes and make goals. Here are my goals for the first half of the year:

  1. Post at least two times a month- articles, journal reviews or garden/farm updates.
  2. Deadlift 250 lbs by March 30th, and 300 lbs by June 30th.
  3. Make time to meditate 4 days per week.

It may seem a little odd that I haven’t posted any food goals. I will continue to research and learn what foods are best for me, but also try and focus more on lifestyle and environmental factors including stress, sleep and gut health. I’m reading Brain Maker by Dr. Perlmutter right now which is about how gut bacteria and the lack thereof may be a root cause for disease. So one of my food goals this year might be something like “make fermented vegetables.” We are still making kombucha, but will try and branch out and make more “healthy bacteria” foods.

Let me know if you’re making any food/diet/lifestyle changes, or have some questions about anything health and wellness related.

Here’s some articles to read about interesting wellness related stuff!

Type 1 Diabetes may be reversible?

Microbes are the cause of Alzheimer’s 

Saturated fat does not clog arteries





Stool sample for banned substance?

Will athletic events need to check stool samples for a banned gut bacteria?  All joking aside, it is interesting to think that someone could take a certain probiotic and get better athletic performance from it.

It’d would also be interesting to know if these high level athletes (HLA) have this bacteria because they are HLA, or if they are HLA because they have the bacteria. The chicken or egg first conundrum. It’d also be interesting to know if they are more likely to eat anything that would promote this HLA bacteria.

Their study shows a spike in, what I’m calling HLA bacteria, post Boston marathon which helps break down lactic acid, possibly giving runners more endurance. A company is trying to make certain probiotics strains for particular types of athletes too, citing different bacteria in ultra marathoners vs elite rowers.

And in other gut bacteria news, extremely healthy elderly have similar microbiomes as healthy 30 yr olds, says this research article. Asking the question, “if you can stay active and eat well, will you age better, or is healthy aging predicated by the bacteria in your gut?” Great question! They can’t say if there is a cause and effect happening here, but I’m sure all the antibiotics we take as Americans isn’t helping matters.


Quick Pickles

This is a bit late in the season for most of these veggies, but I thought I’d share anyway. I think this can be used for fall veggies too like summer/fall quashes if cut thinly. Cucumbers, beets, string beans and even fruits like lemon slices can be used in this recipe.

This recipe makes enough liquid for 2 normal size mason jars (16 oz.)  

The pickling Liquid:

1 c white vinegar

1 Tbs salt

2 tsp sugar

2 c water

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil and stir in the salt and sugar until dissolved


Put 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or other spice or herb such as mustard seed, celery seed, or dill in bottom of 2 pint jars. I like the combo of dill and red pepper flakes for the cucumbers). Add 2-3 smashed garlic cloves to the bottom of the jar. Cram as many thin slices of cucumber or whatever you want to pickle into the jar. A mandolin slicer is a great tool for this kind of slicing. 

Pour the boiling hot pickling liquid over the veggies in the jar, covering all the veggies, nearly to the top. Put a lid on it. I like to agitate the jars a bit to move the spices and veggies around so everything get evenly dispersed and exposed to the hot pickle water. 

Let the jars sit out until they cool off to room temperature and then refrigerate. The vinegar, salt and sugar are all antimicrobials. This method will pickle the veggies, preventing them from going bad, but this is not a real canning/jarring method and won’t store foods for a long time so they should refrigerated and eaten within a couple weeks. 


I know kombucha may not be a new thing to a lot of you. My wife has been drinking it for a few years now as a treat, maybe once or twice a week since it is so expensive. Most of the grocery stores around here (Richmond, VA) sell several different flavors/brands ranging from 3-4 dollars or more. For 12-16 oz, that’s a bit pricey as far as we’re concerned.

A few weeks ago, a local nursery called Sneed’s Nursery had a class about making Kombucha. We had talked about this several times and just never got around to getting the SCOBY, or the supplies, so when this class popped up, we decided now was a good time. We stopped on the way home after the class to pick up a big party size drink dispenser, the kind you usually see filled with tea or lemonade. One with a spigot at the bottom (made from plastic, not metal, I’ll explain more later), is ideal to make for easy bottling/drinking.

The most important thing about making kombucha is the SCOBY. It’s an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Much like the starter or “mother” for sourdough bread, you get a SCOBY from someone who is making their own kombucha. If you don’t know anyone like that, you can either order a SCOBY from places online, or some health food stores have them. Or, you could buy a store bought kombucha and instead of drinking it, you could make up a batch from the purchased drink since it has a small about of the bacteria/yeast colony in it.

What is kombucha? It is fermented tea. It doesn’t taste much like tea at all, as it’s a bit sour and tastes more like vinegar. It is tart and tangy and served cold can be very crisp and refreshing. The store bought versions are usually mixed with some other flavors to help the masses enjoy it. Ginger is a popular addition, as is cranberry and lemon, but you can find it a wide variety of flavors as more people take a liking to it.

“Why would you want to drink kombucha?”, you might ask. Since this is a food/health/wellness blog, and I am obsessed with gut bacteria, you might have guessed that kombucha is a probiotic! Just like yogurt, kefir or kimchi or sauerkraut, it’s full of gut friendly bacteria to help fight off bad bacteria.

If you are interested in making your own, I’ll tell you how I make mine, which is based on the directions given by the lady who taught the class.

Things you’ll need:

A gallon size pot, tea bags, sugar, water, a glass container to ferment the tea, plastic wrap and tightly sealable containers.

A glass container is necessary, don’t skimp and get a plastic or metal container. Plastic will make it taste funny and metal will ruin the SCOBY. Our container has a plastic spigot (painted silvery on the outside) which is fine.

Step 1: Get a SCOBY

Step 2: Brew a gallon of sweet tea. 1 gallon of water, 8 tea bags (they can be green or black or mix and match, not herbal or citrus flavored though), and 1 cup of sugar. White, refined, plain cheap sugar is ideal. It’s easier for the SCOBY to eat. Bring a pot of water to a boil, mix in the sugar until it dissolves, remove from the heat and add your tea bags. Let the tea sit until it is room temperature again. Not lukewarm, not tepid, room temperature, like 75 degrees F. This is important because if the tea is too hot, you will kill the SCOBY.

Step 3: Once your tea is brewed and it’s not hot at all, you pour your tea into a glass  container. kombucha

Step 4: Add the SCOBY.

Step 5: Cover the tea so nothing gets in, but air can get out. Leave it out on the counter/pantry at room temperature. Do not put it in the fridge. We’ve covered ours with saran wrap and poked small holes in it with the tip of a toothpick. You want the holes small enough so dust/mold/fruit flies can’t get in, but CO2 can get out. The SCOBY will produce CO2 and vinegar as by products when the eat the sugar. If you are worried about calorie count or sugar content of kombucha, it is very low because the bacteria and yeast eat practically all the sugar.

Step 6: Wait. Wait until your SCOBY spreads across your entire container, from edge to edge. Depending on how cool or warm you keep your house, this may take a week or two. Once the SCOBY fills the container, it will thicken and continue to grow. The longer it grows, the more vinegary your kombucha will taste.  At this point it is determined by personal preference. You can drink it earlier for less vinegar or wait longer if you’d like. We usually wait about 10-12 days since we like it pretty vinegary.


Continuing to make Kombucha: the original SCOBY, we’ll call it SCOBY-A you got from a friend/internet/bottle used for batch one will grow a new SCOBY, called SCOBY-B, which is what will grow and fill your container. After it has grown and you have harvested/drunk almost all your Kombucha, you will brew a new batch of sweet tea and will take SCOBY-A out of the container with very clean hands. SCOBY-B remains in the container and you pour your new tea over SCOBY-B. This will then ferment for 1-2 weeks while growing a SCOBY-C and producing your second batch of Kombucha. The cycle repeats and you remove the older SCOBY and let the new SCOBY do it’s magic, always leaving the new SCOBY. The newer SCOBY is always going to be the one at the top of the container.

There is a way to “Double-ferment” the tea, which is were the “tightly sealable containers” come into play and most of the fizz (and tiny bit of alcohol) comes from. Instead of drinking the tea straight from your container with a spigot, you can pour the kombucha into a container you can seal tightly and this is when you can add flavors. You can squeeze the juice out of a small piece of ginger (microplane grater and a garlic press work well here) and add it to the container, along with a small (1 tsp) sugar. This is so the bacteria can have some fresh sugar to eat and produce more CO2. You can add herbal/flavored teas to this container, or any juice that has some sugar instead of the tsp of sugar. Let the double fermenting jars sit out at room temperature for 3-4 days and then put in them in the fridge if you’re not going to drink them immediately. Get creative! Let me know what recipes you come up with!