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.