Various spokespersons throughout the millennia have made delightfully profound correspondences between the habitual practices of man and the social health and vitality of his existence. Austrian Scientist, Viktor Schauberger drew a powerful relationship between the way in which we store, treat and transport our most precious commodity - water, and the very harmony of our culture. Actress, Ali McGraw passionately proposed that the way in which we treat our fellow animal earthlings is expressly indicative of the social cohesion and wellness within that same human kingdom.
Similarly, I contend that the life we cultivate and grow within the contours of our own body’s biological terrain (its garden), expressly guides the vital functionality and wellness of the social systems of our planet. Clearly, in all these cases, it is not simply our personal and proximal bodily health that is affected by our actions. Nonetheless, gardening should start in your “own back yard”, so let us focus on this domain today.
As a nutritionist and educator, I am absolutely convinced that one of the key missing or weak links within the “wheel of wellness” lies in an under-appreciation of the vitalising and potently restorative properties of beneficial micro-organisms (often called probiotics). To be specific, we can say that three things determine the quality of our internal garden. One, the purity and nutrient-maturity of the soil (dietary quality). Two, the conditions or climate that the garden is actually subject to (the health of the biological terrain). And three: the population and diversity of beneficial/symbiotic micro-organisms that congregate within the garden. While the first two areas are ignored to different degrees, it is this last point that is often ignored the most within wellness circles. As I share on my About Page: "a river becomes sick if poisons are dumped into it. But it does not automatically become healthy when those poisons are removed. A whole web of interconnected factors have now been disturbed, impaired or even annihilated. The poisons are gone, but what remains is a “dead” river. No amount of deft surgical precision will change that fact until the elements of life – those original constituents of health are restored and allowed to acclimatise".
So what are beneficial micro-organisms/probiotics and why are they so crucial?
Probiotics (notably good bacteria and yeasts) are our most ancient allies. They formulated the framework of our primordial existence, and our developmental pathways are intricately interwoven with their multifarious roles throughout human physiology. Crucially, in the same way that the plant’s root is only able to effectively assimilate the critical soil minerals via bacterial interaction, so too, man is dependent upon bacterial intervention for the assimilation of his sustenance.
Today, in all natural systems, under natural conditions, a wide and complex bandwidth of good bacteria and yeasts work symbiotically, with us, for the purpose of processing the food we eat, so it can be broken-down and metabolised. Additionally, they act as a complex and crucial extension of our own immune and protection systems. Indeed, our body allocates considerable energy and nutritional reserves just to keep our probiotic populations happy, so that our immune response is as effective and efficient as it can be. Indeed, these tiny beneficial lifeforms lubricate our very ability to thrive, so much so, that the reduction or removal of them from the framework of human biology creates the biggest health epidemic known to man. Alas, that point has been and gone, many decades ago.
The reversal of probiotic shortages have been documented to help treat Crohn’s disease, atopic and chronic skin conditions, thrush, constipation, diarrhea, bladder infections, gout, arthritis, "autism spectrum conditions" and hairloss, just to name a tiny handful. Some scholars estimate that 80% of all known degenerative diseases are linked to microorganism deficiency, many of these coming under the “I’m not really sure, but feel unwell” category called Syndrome X. It’s the same old story isn’t it? With our new and recent human arrangements, we have inherited the new diseases concordant with our splice from nature.
Nearly everyone is aware of the arsenal of chemicals that alarmingly flow into our personal environs. I mean, the average person is said to be eating a credit card of microplastic (5 grams) every single week. The vast majority of these chemicals have antibiotic effects, especially regarding the highly sensitive probiotic flora or bio-films of the body. As such, insidious cascades of toxins cause injury and death to the already debilitated stronghold. The central probiotic stronghold resides sprawlingly through the 5-12 feet of the intestinal tract on the hairlike projections called villi, just as they congregate on a plants hairlike root structures in order to convert inorganic nutrients into organic components the plant can absorb. But just as tracts of the globe have been deforested and biodiversity diminished, so too has our sprawling tract been deforested.
As I said, our native probiotic species are really quite sensitive. Excess external heat, incorrect eating habits, pollutants carried by air, land or water, over acidity or alkalinity, nutrient deficiencies, clogged lymph, sticky blood, lack of negative ions, lack of movement, manmade electromagnetic radiation and emotional stressors, even impoverished thinking, can work cumulatively to reduce the probiotic numbers and diversity within our temple. Couple this with the understanding that the very bedrock of our acquired probiotic inheritance has been undermined like never before within the last 2-3 generations. Whilst it was originally the nature of things for the healthy, probiotic-wealthy mother to pass on an important inheritance of life-imparting probiotic strains, (see especially the Bifido bacteria), the rise of the antibiotic, formula milk and the concomitant demise of our own probiotic galaxy have conspired together to produce entire generations without the natural protective and lubricating systems that tend to secure excellence and vitality.
It is estimated that over 90% of our planet is now deficient and morbidly deficient in probiotic organisms. The situation reaches its intended climax though, when we realize what results as probiotic volumes crash. You see, as a healthy strain of bacteria (say Mycobacterium vaccae noted for its ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain, and thus enhance mood) decreases, opportunistic and often less beneficial species find a new niche or sanctuary. As this happens continuously, which is very common, we end up with a spiraling decline of biological harmony within the body. Sooner or later serious and chronic problems arise when particularly hardened, resilient opportunists, like certain strains of Streptococcus and Candida, widen their foothold and start to migrate throughout the body. Thus, not only has the tonifying, adaptogenic, digestive and protective “workforce” of the body been obviated; the invaders that have developed in their place (often via pleomorphism) facilitate the development of an increased state of dysbiosis within the body. This includes the break down of tissue, bone, hair and the muscle that constructs major organs, the propagation of toxic by-products from ammonia, carbon monoxide to inorganic calcium salts, the weakening of the bodies actual immune system, and impairment of the bodies healthy endocrine and hormonal states. Crucially, these antibiotic organisms do not provide us with a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship; rather they are taking, feeding and reproducing as per parasites.
As well as helping turn hard, crude, relatively indigestible foods, into substrata of pre-digested, soft and accessible sugars, amino acids, fatty acid units and bio-available minerals (especially the alkaline components typically bound up within the fibre of plants), our probiotic friends generate a wealth of crucial vitamins as well. In this regard they are also an extended homeostasis mechanism of the body, for during times of deficiency and shortage they are able to create vitamin complexes that the body has fallen short in. Indeed, every one of the vitamins is known to be readily synthesised by various microorganisms in the body. Most famously perhaps are vitamin K, biotin (B7), cobalamin (B12), folates (B9), nicotinic acid (B3), panthotenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin (B3), and thiamine (B1).
In wild, pristine natural conditions every edible plant in nature will contain a constellation of probiotic species that have for eons shared a mutually beneficial heritage within its environment. This is an important point for us to understand because these specific probiotic strains have learnt to utilize, and increase the nutritive availability of the plant itself. Thus to take an example, when we pick a wild plum, we observe there a white bio-film layer which in actual fact is billions of these plant-specific organisms, equipped more than any other combination perhaps, to fruitfully digest and metabolise that food as the whole complex is ingested within the human system. Yet decisively, in a world where most people are eating cooked, microwaved, and sterile foods, and where, despite the resurgence, so few even dare to pick their own food, we are not eating the true whole food; we are simply not acquiring the probiotic kingdoms as nature intended.
As I stated at the beginning, I believe that probiotics are the biggest under-recognised component of nutritional-related wellness. They are the missing link, and their minimisation is implicated in nearly all diseases and devitalised human conditions. And yet, for every “tragedy” there is the appropriate remedy. With nutritious, broad-spectrum micro-organism fermented foods and select probiotic supplementation, it is possible to regrow and re-establish your internal Eden. But just as it takes time and devotion to grow a food forest on a a feral stretch of agricultural land, it takes time and devotion to re-inoculate our tiny allies into the pockets, tracts and recesses where they belong. And yet, I have seen it happen time and time again, and, with the right input and environment, it happens all by itself.
For a high-quality probiotic formula containing "rarer"or "heirloom" species that are less common in probiotic supplements, but very common in healthy non-chemically-treated soil, and the skins of natural plants grown in such soil, please see HERE.
First printed in Fresh Magazine, 2011. An article by Kyle Vialli. Updated 2023.