Unintended gardens: How the Probiotics of Home Fermentation can Expand our Immunity Beyond our Bodies, by Adam Lake

me4.jpg After burning out from a double major in biochemistry and linguistics and a year of medical school, Adam Lake took a year off to travel through Central and South America studying permaculture and herbal medicine. In 2008 he returned for his second year of medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia and helped start their alternative medicine interest group. Aside from medicine, Adam is interested in economics, rock climbing, wilderness survival, and all things food related.

After learning of Adam’s adventures with fermentation, I asked him if he would use his medical knowledge and practical experience to write a short article on the medical value of unpasteurized fermented foods. –Didi Pershouse

“Hey Adam!” my roommate Steve calls to me while looking in the fridge. I turn from the pile of dishes built up in the sink from a day or two of bachelor-pad living, and see Steve holding up a half-full container of milk. “Do you think this went bad?” Cautiously I swirl the jug a bit looking for obvious lumps. When nothing awry appears, I take a distanced whiff…but it smells more like sour cream than rancid milk.

“Huh,” I say, glancing over at the several bubbling jars next to the sink, “It’s not really bad…it’s soured instead. You could still drink it.” I take a sip to back up my guess. Nothing thrilling, just sour milk, on its way to becoming yogurt or some new cheese. The common bacteria that would tend to make milk rancid appeared to have been out-competed by tastier lactobacilli , and I suspect the sourdough and lacto-fermenting oat cultures next to the sink are the cause. I make a mental note about that, as this is the first kitchen I’ve lived in with so many fermentation projects going on.

A few months prior, I had run into a book by Sandor Katz called Wild Fermentation, which appealed to me for several reasons.

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Dirty Rats are Healthier than Clean Ones

Research in the past couple of years has confirmed what many have suspected: that all our focus on purity and cleanliness may be misguided. Dirty rats, it turns out, are healthier than clean ones, and even intestinal worms can help to prevent and clear up bowel problems. See these articles for more details:

Hygiene Hypothesis: Are We Too Clean for Our Own Good? by Dan Ullrich

Sewer Rats Healthier than Clean Cousins by Seth Borenstein

Can We Be Too Clean?by Jill Fallon

How to Live Long and Prosper: Get Dirty? by Robin Lloyd

War on Bacteria is Wrongheaded by Christopher Wanjek

Healthy Bacteria: Your Dirty Little Secrets

Don’t tell your doctor, but you are teeming with bacteria.

Legion of Little Helpers in the Gut Keeps Us Alive

I find it ironic to read how they predict that doctors may even be prescribing probiotics “someday. ” Naturopathic doctors and other sustainable health care practitioners have been prescribing probiotics for years, and old babushkas in Russia have been telling their grandchildren to finish up their yogurt for centuries.   The Weston Price Foundation has lots of good information on live foods that keep you healthy and provide you with nutrients you can’t get any other way.  My Real Food section provides books, links and other resources on foods that help keep your dirty little secret weapons alive and healthy.

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