Fermented Foods – Probiotics – Immunity

I help many educated people with their diets, yet, very few of my clients come to me already taking probiotics. The awareness on the importance of taking probiotics or eating a diet including fermented foods is low. More than half of our immune system is in our digestive (GI) tract, which encompasses healthy bugs preventing the overgrowth of bacteria and yeasts. So what does this mean, and who should be intrigued by this information?


For most of us, our diets are low in foods with live and active cultures (yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut) and these foods help to maintain optimal levels of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. If the levels of good bacteria drop, so does our immune system and we are more likely to get sick. Besides the fact we can become more susceptible to a cold/flu, an optimal level of healthy bugs in our gut also allow us to be our healthiest person.

Circa 1990s, research established probiotics can help treat several gastrointestinal illnesses, delay the development of allergies in children, and help women treat and prevent vaginal and urinary infections.

Enhancing diets with fermented foods/probiotic supplements clients can:

  • aid digestion
  • strengthen immunity
  • fight obesity (in post-par-tam women and patients who went through a weight loss surgery)
  • treat diarrhea in infants and children, specifically antibiotic associated diarrhea (please note, you never want to take a probiotic while taking an antibiotic. You want to take a probiotic immediately after the antibiotic is finished)
  • treat Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • enhance nutrient absorption
  • manage allergies. One study, specifically, found a relationship that when pregnant women took an probiitoc their child was less likely to have ezcema by 30%.

A physician at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Mullin, suggests the future may lie in concocting specific probiotics for people based upon their individual needs and microbiomes.

Recommendations for maintaining a healthy gut:

  • Avoid situations and events that are mentally stressful and overtly physically stressful
  • Avoid the need for antibiotics, the best you can
  • Maintain a healthy diet, and avoid irritant foods (for many this includes gluten containing grains, dairy and/or legumes)
  • Take a daily probiotic (I recommend products from Standard Process including ProSynbiotic. I have been taking their supplements including ProSynbiotic and have noticed a remarkable difference. I overall feel better, sense more ease controlling my blood sugars and have more energy)

Overall, if you are interested in adding a probiotic to your diet, understand not all supplements are equal, including probiotics. Contact a health professional to understand what supplements are most appropriate for you.

Small changes to diet and lifestyle can completely change our quality of life. Advocate for your health and seek for results. It takes 66 days for something to become a habit and 100 days to sense the results. Be patient and enjoy the journey.

Cheers to you and good health,




The Harvard Medical School Family Guide

Dotterud K, et al. Probiotics to prevent allergic disease. Brit J Dermatol, 2010

Bailey M, Dowd S. Stressor Exposure Disrupts Commensal Microbial Populations. Inf and Immun April 2010; 78(4): 1509-19

Holdeman L. Good I. Human Fecal Flora: Variation and Possible Effect of Emotional Stress. App Env Microbiol Mar 1976;21(3):369-75.

Vitamin D – And I Thought I Knew It All

Upon my return to the USA, I was flabbergasted (in a good way) by something called “Meet-ups.” Two years go by and a whole new social community has developed with these interest group gatherings. Happily I am in numerous Meet-up groups catered to Entrepreneurs, to a Walking group (yes!!!), Paleo’ers and more. So as you can tell, I jumped on Meetup.com joined some Meet-ups that suit my interest and bang, I started attending some meetings.

Today’s post addresses a Paleo Meet-up held in Columbus, Ohio, where Dr Oliver hosted a lecture on vitamin D. After working as a dietitian on the Got Milk campaign, a few years back, I thought I was well-versed in vitamin D research. However, Dr Oliver showed me otherwise. Some information I noted includes the following:

  • It is estimate that up to 90% of people in the Midwest could have insufficient levels vitamin D
  • Everyone should consider testing to see where their levels are – you can go to your GP or order one online at http://www.grassrootshealth.net and http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/.
  • The amount of Vitamin D to supplement is unique to each person and the amount of vitamin D needed to increase one’s level varies. Personally, I take about 3,000-5,000IU of D3 (AnabolicLabs) a day. My last lab showed my levels at  54 nmol/L.
  • The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Besides fatty fish, free range eggs, cod liver oil there are few foods to offer substantial levels.  Ideally spending 15 minutes in the sun at peak times can offer 50,000 IU of vitamin D, according to Dr Oliver. So the question begs to ask, “What are you doing on your lunch break?”
  • When supplementing you want to consider D3 (as well as K2). Indeed a lot of pharmaceutical companies sell D2, yet, D3 is relatively cheap and a lot of the research on vitamin D supplementation has been done on D3.
  • If a woman is breastfeeding or lactating her vitamin D needs will increase to 7,000 IU a day. This is above the RDA, yet, in my opinion as a RD and Dr Oliver agreeing, this 7,000 IU is optimal and perhaps not enough.
  • The RDA for children increased a few years ago and it is now 400 IU, however, there are studies suggesting the needs are much higher. For toddlers the RDA is 600 IU, however, a suggested amount from this meeting would be 1,000-2,000 IU.
  • Overall vitamin D absorption varies – regardless if it is from the sun or a supplement. People with darker skin need to spend more time in the sun to get equal amounts of vitamin D as someone with fairer skin.
  • If capable get your vitamin D levels checked during the winter months. If your levels are low, check again in 3 months to see if you are supplementing enough.
  • Vitamin D supplementing is a very easy thing to do – and people will reap the health benefits even without diet change. However, absorption is better when individuals remove grains from their diet, as seen in Dr Oliver’s patient population.
  • Vitamin D is crucial for bone health – calcium supplementing is not necessary and can even be harmful. The USA is the country with the highest osteoporosis and the highest to supplement with calcium. Please discard calcium chews and the likes if you have them in your cabinet.
  • There are populations who are contraindicated to supplement with vitamin D and this includes individuals who have hyperparathyroidism, hypercalcaemia, granular disease in the lungs, fungal infections in the lungs, cancer/lymphoma and people who have a feeling of being unwell when they are in the sun.
  • Adequate amounts of vitamin D can help those who are experiencing joint pain. Often patients will see a doctor for back pain, etc, and vitamin D may be the solution, not steroids.

As a dietitian, I surely always recommend food first for health, however, there are some key supplements I advise most people to consider taking. Vitamin D is one of them, as is magnesium, a concentrated fish oil, and probiotics, as long as they are no medical or pharmaceutical contraindications to taking these. These recommended supplements help reduce chronic inflammation.

If you want more advice or information on finding high quality supplements as well as dietary advice, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Also, come November 20th (Tuesday) I will be hosting the Paleo Living Columbus gathering. Hopefully you can make it if you are in the area. More information here.

Additional Supporting Vitamin D Research: