The Benefits of Probiotic Foods – How Age-Old Cultured Foods Boost Immunity

We’ve approached a time in history when more people are taking responsibility for their own healing – seeking opinions from doctors and practitioners with a range of philosophies, discovering and treating the root-cause of illnesses, and remembering the wisdom behind the statement, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” stated by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.

Throughout time, popular diseases have offered society a reflection of its own state of being. The predominant lifestyles, medicine, social issues, diets, etc. all amount to health challenges of those times. Quite often the insidious, debatable epidemics that affected large populations instigated societal growth and advancements.

One of today’s such diseases is Candidiasis, a fungal infection, caused by Candida albicans, that starts in the colon and can spread through the bloodstream affecting the immune system. Candida is caused by an imbalance of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut, resulting in an overgrowth of fungus ranging from severe to mild. The long-term danger of overgrowth is a compromised immune system. Seventy to 80 percent of what controls our immunity is a result of the health of our gut. Candidiasis has been linked to many symptoms, including skin rashes, food allergies, chronic constipation, chronic vaginal yeast infections, PMS, reoccurring headaches, mental fuzziness and more. But the majority of people don’t associate their systems with this modern epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75% of all adult women have had at least one genital “yeast infection” in their lifetime. In those with weakened immune systems, like AIDS or cancer, candida that leaks into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall can (and often does) become the actual cause of death.

Although there are a number of pills and creams being prescribed for this infection by allopathic doctors, some practitioners believe that unless the colon’s environment is altered and “friendly” bacteria reintroduced, while the foods perpetuating this imbalance are eliminated, the ‘yeast infection’ will persist. New solutions proving to be effective include colonics, intestinal cleanses, special diets, and probiotics, some of the most potent probiotics can be obtained through an age-old method of fermenting plant-source foods.

Following is an interview with Carly Balsz, founder of Healing Movement in Santa Monica, California

Jara Fairchild: Carly, your mission is to help people develop balanced inner ecosystems by supporting them to create healthy digestion. How did you get started on this journey?

Carly Balsz: My journey began as an R.N., but I wasn’t healthy. My problem was a severe Candida infection, which was weakening my immune system. I found the Body Ecology Diet book, a system of healing by Donna Gates, which emphasizes that we all have unique dietary needs depending on the state of our inner ecosystems. For example, we might all agree that an organic, whole foods diet is healthy. But wheat, dairy, or even natural sugars may not benefit you. I was on a raw food diet, but the dates and fruits that I was eating were making me sick! So not only did I eliminate certain foods, I began fermenting vegetables and the water from Young Thai coconuts, the probiotic foods suggested by the diet to replenish my colon with ‘friendly’ bacteria. That’s when my immune system kicked in, plus these raw cultured vegetables and coconut water kefir as they are called, helped curb my intense sugar cravings, a common symptom that seems insurmountable to Candida sufferers.

J: So you sensed that there were many others out there like you suffering from Candida and set out to help them too?

C: First I was inspired by colon hydrotherapy because it was the first thing I did that my body responded to. None of the anti-fungal medications prescribed by my doctor helped. At the time, I was working the UCLA Medical Center’s Liver Transplant ICU and was responsible for administering antibiotics, the very thing that may have contributed to my condition. I also remembered the mid-90s when pharmacies, overnight it seemed, added sections dedicated to vaginal suppositories to treat yeast infections. I had this moment when I realized how much I wasn’t alone in suffering from a systemic fungal infection, but rather it had reached epidemic proportions — that’s when I quit my job. Today I have so many success stories. I’ve worked with an 18-year-old boy with Crohn’s disease for about a year who was on steroids. The other day his mother said he’s was off the medications and symptom free. She attributes it to the colonics, the diet and the probiotic foods.

J: So are all ‘probiotic foods’ created equally? Are the new yogurts on the market with probiotics effective?

C: They are NOT created equally. Despite the large-budget ad campaigns that almost make yogurt a convincing choice as a probiotic, many yogurts are not effective. First, they are counterintuitive to healing because they add sugar. Also, for people with digestive issues, dairy tends to irritate the gut lining or cause allergic reactions. And often the microflora from yogurt isn’t strong enough to survive harsh stomach acid so they don’t get into the gut to colonize. Cultured foods, however, are permitted by all diets — vegan, raw, macrobiotic and others. The process alone of making them with “starter culture” introduces a hardy strain of beneficial bacteria, a robust bacterium called Lb. Plantarum, which is resistant to antibiotics. The veggies and kefir work quickly because they are alkaline-forming foods. Microbes love acidic environments because they have a lot to feast on. So the goal is to balance the body’s pH. These foods are also fibrous for stronger peristalsis, while the kefir is hydrating, and both contain a rich source of enzymes, vitamins and minerals.

J: Is it easy to make the veggies and kefir at home?

C: Yes. Cultured foods have been around for thousands of years, kimchi and sauerkraut are two examples. So they are affordable and easy to make. When I started making the veggies, I rallied together a small group and we did two big batches a month. If you do buy them at the store, look for brands that don’t add sea salt to the fermentation process, which is how traditional sauerkraut is made. Sea salt slows down bacterial growth. You can add sea salt once they’ve cultured, as well as dressings, oils and seasonings. The kefir can be made from Young Thai coconuts, but you can also ferment regular coconut water. Some people add stevia, cranberry juice, lemon, etc.

J: Is there a link between digestion and children who develop autism?

C: Yes. Each child is different, but improving digestion should be the starting point. There has been much evidence that these children have an overgrowth of fungus, which cause toxins to absorb through the gut wall, enter the bloodstream and are carried to the brain causing neurological dysfunctions. I work with a child who in the beginning was constipated, but what we’ve observed over the past year is that his behavior improved as his digestion did. There are many stories of children recovering from symptoms of autism when placed on sugar-free, gluten-free, casein-free diets, and adding the cultured foods.

Mothers sometimes feel guilty when they understand the link, but it’s not their fault. However, education is important. Most women haven’t been given the right information about how to treat a Candida infection and most men who have it, don’t know it. I admire high-profile personalities with autistic children who speak out, like Jenny McCarthy, so we can spread the word about getting to the root-cause of this infection. So I’ve made it my mission to provide people with the tools that have worked for me. I’m planning to be a mom someday and I thank God I got sick. Now I know for sure that my body is ready.

Life-Saving Knife Scenarios

Real life incidents in which people have saved their own lives with knives are probably more common than we realize, but they aren’t always widely reported in the media. Below are several accounts in which people have saved their lives using different varieties of knives (in some instances the sources of the stories are not known since they were picked up over many years of “cursory” reading). The main “lesson” in this article is that it’s usually a good idea to carry a knife, especially if you find yourself in a crime-ridden section of a city, or about to embark on an adventure that may involve precarious situations.

Our first case concerns a mountain man by the name of James Beckwourth. His life-saving knife event occurred during the Fur Trade era in the early 19th century. While traveling one day he ran upon a dangerous grizzly bear and tried to kill it with his rifle but only succeeded in wounding the powerful animal. The bear became enraged after being shot and charged Beckwourth, but since his rifle was only a single shot muzzle-loader, he was forced to draw his knife, which was a large bowie type model. Beckwourth stabbed the blade repeatedly into the bear’s vital organs until he put the grizzly down. He survived the dangerous ordeal but suffered many deep lacerations in the process. The noise of Beckwourth’s initial gunshot and the bear’s loud roaring attracted the attention of a hunting party of Crow Indians, who took Beckwourth back to their village and nursed him to health. Beckwourth’s battle with the grizzly was so impressive to the Indians they made him an “honorary” member of their tribe, and over time he ascended to become ‘War Chief’ of the Crow Nation (keep in mind, other accounts differ from this grizzly bear story and claim the Crow Indians merely caught Beckwourth trapping on their territory and captured him, after which he married many Crow women and became part of their tribe).

Another remarkable case of a man saving his own life with a knife involves an assassination attempt made on the life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. After the General had been wounded at close range by a Civil War era revolver, he grabbed the assassin’s gun hand and struggled to keep the revolver pointing away from him. As he controlled the man’s gun, the General quickly pulled out his pocket knife with his free hand, opened it with his teeth, then stabbed the blade repeatedly into the assassin’s stomach to kill him.

Our next knife related incident occurred in Africa shortly after the Boer War, by an unknown individual whom we will refer to as “Sven.” While riding his horse in the Transvall Province of South Africa one day Sven’s horse suddenly veered and he felt something strike him in the back. He fell off the horse and soon found himself staring up into the face of a huge lion. The lion clamped its teeth onto Sven’s left shoulder and began walking off with him, dragging Sven along, intending to take him into the bushes where he would enjoy a long lunch. While being dragged away, Sven found that he could move his right hand and quickly reached down and felt for his knife, which was in its ‘antelope hock’ sheath. Sven’s body was positioned directly underneath the lion as it dragged him and Sven took his knife and began stabbing the lion over and over again near its shoulder as hard as possible. But the lion was so tough it simply continued walking and dragging Sven through the brush. But Sven did not give up. He only stabbed harder until the continuous thrusts soon caused gurgling noises to emanate from the lion’s throat. Shortly afterward the lion let go of Sven and ran away.

The knife that saved Sven’s life was a common butcher style variety with a six inch blade and wooden slab handles made by the Sheffield Knife Company in England. Sven first saw the knife at a local mercantile shop laying next to a block of cheese. He noticed the Sheffield marking and realized it was better than the knife he had in his possession so he decided to make a trade. Sven waited until the store owner was busy and placed the knife from his scabbard next to the cheese and took the Sheffield knife. Many years later Sven paid a visit to the Sheffield Knife Company and told the president and other workers that he’d actually killed a lion with one of their knives. But the men simply looked at him in disbelief and didn’t respond.

During WWI another life-saving occurrence took place, involving a Corporal Strong of the U.S. Army and his bolo knife (bolo knives were issued to U.S. troops from 1909 to 1917 and came in four different sizes with the largest having a 14-inch blade). Corporal Strong was seriously injured when a blast of artillery fire caused several large boulders to fall into his foxhole. He was knocked on his back by the barrage and one of the boulders landed on his arm, crushing and pinning him to the ground. After regaining consciousness and suffering in a painful position for many hours, Strong finally decided he’d been abandoned by his comrades in the heat of battle and had to either resign himself to a slow painful death or make a struggle to stay alive. So he removed his belt and cinched it tightly around his arm to form a tourniquet, then he removed his bolo knife from its sheath and proceeded to hack through his pinned arm so he could get free. After suffering excruciating pain from cutting through his own arm, Strong climbed out of the foxhole and began searching for his lost platoon. He traveled only a short distance when he spotted some enemy soldiers of the German army walking along. He drew his pistol and approached the men and ordered them to drop their rifles. Because they were caught off guard and probably had little training, they immediately obeyed. Later Corporal Strong found his platoon and rejoined them while marching four enemy prisoner’s of war in front of him, one of which was actually carrying Strong’s severed arm that he’d cut off earlier in the foxhole.

Another live-saving incident involved a Native American by the name of Skeeter “Grey Otter” Vaughan, who was serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. Vaughan was initially trained to be a radioman but soon became a drill instructor. He was assigned to the 18th Cavalry and sent overseas to participate in the Allied invasion of Europe. After several months of combat Vaughan’s commander, Lieutenant “Dutch” Herderich, formed a secretive unit known as the Moccasin Rangers which was composed of six Native Americans and included Sergeant Vaughan as the leader. For one of their missions they were sent into the Ardennes Forest behind enemy lines to obtain enemy information and they discovered an enemy bunker that had only one sentry guarding it. They knew shooting the sentry would alert the enemy, so Vaughan studied the situation for some time and unsheathed his knife, threw it at the sentry, and killed him instantly. Throwing a knife accurately enough to take out an enemy isn’t easy, but Vaughan was not a novice at knife-throwing, having had experience throwing tomahawks and knives to hunt small game ever since he was a child. When the War ended Vaughan worked in the film and entertainment industry as a stuntman, weapons expert, and performer. Later Vaughan even appeared on the ‘Circus of the Stars’ television show exhibiting his weapon-throwing skills. 

Our last incident involves a woman by the name of Lisa Fairchild. One night she was working late at an advertising agency, finishing up material for a client. When she finished it was nearly midnight and she searched for a security guard to follow her to her car, but she couldn’t locate one. Finally Miss Fairchild decided to go alone, but before doing so she took a small dagger from her desk and placed it in her coat pocket. When she left the building she walked through the parking lot, holding her purse in her left hand as her right hand stayed in her pocket firmly on her dagger. While walking she noticed a man coming toward her in the darkness. The man got closer and Lisa noticed a malicious smile on his face. She removed her dagger and held it ready against her coat. The man reached out for her and Miss Fairchild simply slashed his hand with the dagger. The man looked at the blood pouring from his wounded hand, then reached out for her again. But every time the man would try to grab her, she would simply slash him again. Finally the assailant fled and Miss Fairchild managed to get to the safety of her car where she drove away.

So there you have a few life-saving knife scenarios. Remember, it’s always a good idea to carry a knife since you never know when it may save your life.

The Rise and Fall of the American Chip Industry

The semiconductor chip is at the core of what we think us as technology. Computers, cell phones, iPods, medical equipment, avionics, etc. have only been possible because of the chip. The American chip industry has been damaged by the recent economic slowdown like most industries, but more importantly, the chip business in the United States has been in a slow fall for 30 years.

In January global chip sales dropped by almost a third from the previous year, to $15.3 billion (Semiconductor Industry Association). Overinvestment in chip factories has resulted in steep losses of over the last 2 years. The chip business has been compared to farming. If too many farmers plant cotton, then the price of cotton will drop (supply and demand).

The American chip industry, outside of Intel, is an endangered species. AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and others are already gone from the field. Others, like Texas Instruments, have set a path for the eventual elimination of manufacturing. These companies have gone “fabless”, meaning they will continue designing applications, but leave the process technology and manufacturing to someone else (most often to companies in Asia).

The microprocessor market has been the exception, especially Intel. The microprocessor market has been controlled by Intel. It has been a kind of monopoly. But Intel, when operating outside the microprocessor arena (i.e. DRAM or Flash memory), has followed the general model.

Intel has recently closed 3 factories (the industry calls them “Fabs”, short for fabrication): one in Colorado, one in Oregon, and one in California. But Intel is building microprocessor fabs at the same time, currently building a factory in Phoenix and one in Israel. Intel is doing OK. Intel had over $12 billion of cash on hand at the end of 2008.

In 1980, one of the pivotal events in the history of the chip industry, was IBM’s selection of Intel to build the microprocessors for the IBM personal computers. IBM chose Intel over Motorola and Zilog (Zilog was founded by ex-Intel engineer Frederico Faggin, who invented the MOS process while at Fairchild).

IBM insisted that Intel facilitate second sources for the microprocessors by allowing companies like AMD to alternatively manufacture the chips. Intel’s wealth has been almost fully acquired because of their control of the personal computer. IBM ceded control of the personal computer away with this agreement, or more accurately, their failure to execute this agreement.

The Rise of the American Chip Industry

The Chip Industry has its roots firmly in the United States. Scientists at AT&T Bell Labs invented the transistor in 1947. The chip, or integrated circuit, was invented by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce of Fairchild (later Intel) in 1958. There were many interim steps between these two seminal events, most accomplished by the teams from Fairchild and RCA.

In 1975, the U.S. had more than 70% of the world’s market share for chips. The chip industry titans during the development years were IBM, AT&T, Texas Instruments, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard. These were established technology companies that had success in the emerging field.

Silicon Valley, in California, was largely the result of startup companies with ties to Fairchild, who was located in the area. Fairchild was a technology pioneer, but most of the success came from Fairchild alumni, what became known as the “Fairchildren”. Alumni from Fairchild founded Intel, AMD, National Semiconductor, LSI Logic, Altera, Xilinx and many others. One notable Fairchild alumni was Eugene Kleiner, who would later found Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm that would help Amazon, Google and Sun Microsystems become billion-dollar companies.

The Fall of the American Chip Industry

Since the U.S. had such a commanding market share in the 1970’s, it was natural that this position would be difficult to maintain. The first challenger was Japan, who was very successful at capturing the DRAM market, at the time the most important chip market. By the mid 1980s, 80 percent of the DRAM market belonged to Japan.

Many outside of Asia fail to give proper credit to the emergence of Japan in the chip industry. The common perception is that the sole reason for Japan’s success was low labor costs. In fact, the primary reason for Japan’s ability to manufacture at lower cost was a superior technical strategy. American DRAM manufacturers switched to a lithography technology called “steppers” a generation before the Japanese. The Japanese continued to utilize the previous generation lithography technology called “scanners”. The American companies falsely believed that scanner technology would be inadequate for the newest memory devices. Scanners are significantly faster and less expensive to operate than steppers. Because the lithography step is so important to the overall process, the Japanese had a significant advantage, and used that advantage to capture the DRAM market.

In 1987 the United States started a research consortium called Sematech to combat the loss of market share. The plan called for the chip companies to share research costs, with a government subsidy. Member companies contributed $124 million to Sematech’s 1990 budget and $100 million was contributed by the government through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Japan’s market share did drop in the early 1990’s, but this was probably more as a result of problems in the Japanese economy than with developments in the U.S. chip industry. The Japanese stock market “bubble” burst, much like the dot-com market burst in the United States. Japan’s market share of total chip sales peaked in 1988 at about 49%. Today, Japan’s world market share of the chip business is about 25%.

Sematech had a positive impact on the U.S. chip companies’ circuit reliability. Statistical process control (SPC) techniques were led by Sematech and resulted in dramatic improvements. Motorola, a Sematech member, was the first winner of the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award. The progress in reliability enabled chip customers to forego incoming inspection of chips, a huge cost savings.

Sematech was very active helping an immature U.S. equipment industry improve their tools. Sematech effectively moved the technology center of semiconductor industry from chip manufacturers to the chip equipment companies like Applied Materials and KLA. Before Sematech, the customers were the process experts, but now the process tool companies included process expertise with the equipment. This was very good for the lucky equipment companies, but Sematech was very selective. Many tool vendors were shut out by Sematech.

Those outside the chip community sometimes fail to understand the degree to which the chip equipment industry is internationalized. A fab requires hundreds of different process tools for the many different process steps (some chips require more than 500 process steps). Many of the tools cost more $1 million. Most fabs will attempt to standardize on a tool supplier for a particular process step, but all fabs have equipment from many different companies.

A few years ago, a major “Wall Street Analyst” cut his forecast of Applied Materials’ business prospects based on the growth of the Taiwan semiconductor industry. The flaw in this logic is that a Taiwanese factory uses U.S. equipment at about the same rate as a United States based company. U.S. companies also commonly use equipment manufactured from outside the U.S, especially from Japan.

Since the chip equipment industry is so globalized, if Sematech makes an advance, U.S. companies gain little, if any, advantage. Chip manufacturing has become highly homogeneous, from company to company, and from country to country. Because the equipment companies now controlled the process technology, it became much easier for countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and China to enter the market. If a company had the money, the technology was for sale.

The result of the work done by the industry, especially by Sematech and its Japanese counterpart, Tohoku University, was that the process of manufacturing chips became less of an art, and more of a science. Chip manufacturing became “paint by the numbers”. Once the industry reached this level of maturity, the price of capital, and the price of labor, became the dominant factors in the choice of manufacturing location.

A state of the art fab requires an investment of $3-4 billion. Chip manufacture is now a commodity business involving huge production volumes and low profit margins. A recent count of the last 40 chip factories built showed that 35 were in Asia, 3 were in the United States, and 2 were in Europe.

The memory market, including the products DRAM and Flash Memory, is the most competitive chip arena. South Korean companies currently dominate the memory market. Samsung is the leader, with more than 30 per cent market share, and Hynix is second, with more than 18 per cent market share. Elpida (Taiwan) with 15 percent, Micron (U.S.) with 11 percent, and Qimonda (formerly Siemens/Infineon, Germany, currently in bankruptcy) with 8 percent, are the other significant market share holders.

The Emergence of the Chip Foundry

Chip manufacturing technology continues to become more of a commodity. Companies that once designed, manufactured, and marketed chips, now hire a third party for the manufacture step. This is what is meant by a “fabless” company. The company that performs the manufacturing step is the “foundry”. The design is accomplished via collaboration between the foundry and the fabless company.
A modern foundry provides software tools so that the fabless company can accomplish their objective using standard process cells, technology that is owned by the foundry. One of the world’s first chip foundries was created in Taiwan by Texas Instruments in 1989 to manufacture DRAM. The company was called TI-Acer.

Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC), with $30 billion market capitalization, is the current leader in the foundry chip industry, and currently boasts more than 44 per cent of the world market share of chip foundry business. TSMC was founded in 1987 as a joint venture of Philips (Netherlands), the government of Taiwan, and private investors. Morris Chang is the founder of TSMC, and continues to serve as the Chairman. Mr. Chang’s resume includes 25 years at Texas Instruments, leaving as a group vice president in charge of the company’s worldwide semiconductor business. TI-Acer merged with TSMC in 1999.

The world’s second largest foundry is also in Taiwan. UMC claims more than 14% of the foundry business worldwide. Taiwan, a country about the size of Vancouver, Canada, has the highest concentration of semiconductor manufacturing in the world.

It is interesting to note that two of the executives instrumental in recent events in the semiconductor industry are on the TSMC board of directors: Carly Fiorina and Thomas Engibous.

Carly Fiorina is now best known as John McCain’s Economic Advisor during the last election. She is the former CEO of Hewlett Packard where she oversaw HP’s exit from the chip manufacturing business. In addition, Ms. Fiorina spent nearly 20 years at AT&T and Lucent Technologies Inc. where she served as Executive Vice President, Computer Operations for Lucent and oversaw the exit of AT&T from chip manufacturing.

Thomas J. Engibous (former Texas Instruments Chairman, former president and CEO 1996 -2004), was the department manager of TI’s semiconductor group when TI established TI-Acer. Texas Instruments has eliminated their R&D operation, and plans to be fabless for most of their production. TI was one of TSMC’s first customers. Much of the foundry model has roots from within Texas Instruments.

The Future of the American Chip Industry

Intel will continue to dominate the Personal Computer microprocessor business for the foreseeable future. There are threats. AMD does everything well except make money. A Taiwan company called “Via” may be the more significant long-term threat. Via designs the chips and manufactures them at the local foundries. Via’s core designs originated with Cyrix Semiconductor, a company started by ex-Texas Instrument engineers. Cyrix was sold to Via in 1999. Via’s processors are competing well against the Intel “Atom” microprocessor, in less expensive laptop computers.

AMD recently completed an agreement with a company from ATIC (Advanced Technology Investment Company) funded by the Government of Dubai, that should enable them to continue to compete with Intel. AMD plans to build (with their partner), a chip manufacturing facility in Saratoga County, New York. AMD currently manufactures all of its microprocessors in Dresden, Germany.

AMD has a technology exchange agreement with IBM. IBM continues to do well. IBM’s strategy is to participate in higher margin products and avoid commodity markets like DRAM. IBM remains a world leader of chip technology.

Foreign companies continue to invest in U.S. fabs, but at a reduced rate. Samsung is doing well with its DRAM factories in Round Rock, Texas, a few miles north of Austin. Samsung operates two fabs; the newest fab opened in 2007 and is considered state-of-the-art.

There are also success stories at the lower end of the technology scale. X-Fab, a German company, operates a fab in Lubbock that is a bright star on a bleak landscape. X-Fab excels by thinking “out-of-the-box”, something exceedingly rare in the chip industry today, ironic considering its history. It would be impossible for X-Fab to compete in a high volume, low margin business like DRAM, but they do very well with custom analog chip production. The facility was originally built by Texas Instruments.

More than half of the chip fabs in the United States in in operation at the beginning of the decade are now closed. Outside of Intel, there has been little to cheer about. There is little mystery about what the future holds. Our actions today determine our consequences tomorrow.