A short note on prebiotics / probiotics and our microbiome

By Mart 26, 2015 10 Comments

Although I touched upon the importance of probiotics, particularly home made yogurt, in the Nutrition / Health article, I wasn’t too pleased with the way I handled the topic of probiotics and have edited what I originally wrote.

Probiotics is a Greek word, which means

Pro = for

Biotics = life

Probiotics contain LIVE, beneficial bacteria and when consumed supplements and restores the beneficial bacteria already living in our large intestines. Remember that 90 % of our immune system is comprised of these beneficial bacteria in our gut.

There is much evidence that probiotics may help:

Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with antibiotics

Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections

Treat irritable bowel syndrome

Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections

Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu

As noted,



Apple cider vinegar (with mother)

Fermented vegetables, etc.,

are all probiotics.

So, what are PREBIOTICS? We can define prebiotics as follows:

“A healthy non-digestible food ingredient that probiotics feed on.”

Let us list some of the best ones:

Jerusalem artichokes

Raw garlic

Raw onions

Raw leeks

Raw asparagus



Notice that I say “non-digestible food ingredient”, meaning that all of the foods mentioned above are not TOTALLY NON-DIGESTIBLE; some of the dietary fiber is not digested and becomes food for the probiotics in our gut.

When we consume prebiotics, together with probiotics we get synbiotics, the best of both worlds.  Could this have anything to do with the fact that we in Turkey are heavy users of yogurt with garlic in it; my wife, Pinky, puts it on almost anything she’s eating.



That’s Pinky and Brett in a fish restaurant in Istanbul; no yogurt with garlic though.

The reason I’m dwelling on this subject to this extent, is due to how crucial our immune system is for our wellbeing. I emphasize the fact again, 90 % of our immune system is in our gut.

You all know the phrase “I caught a cold”; well; NOBODY GETS SICK FROM BEING EXPOSED TO COLD. If you are exposed to cold weather, your body expends energy to warm you up and if your immune system is not up to par, it cannot fight against the viruses or germs that you are CONTINOUSLY exposed to. In other words, trying to get you warm and trying to fight off the viruses or germs overwhelms the immune system.

Thus, keep your immune system, your microbiome, in the best shape possible.

In order to get a better idea as to how important our microbiome is, I strongly recommend that you watch a very interesting and educational video by Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a Washington, D.C. gastroenterologist.

The title is “Live Dirty, Eat Clean! Why The Microbiome Is The Future of Medicine” and you can access it by Google’ing: Chutkan

Dr. Chutkan suggests that we BATHE LESS OFTEN and eat properly.  Poorer countries are “healthier” because of this. She says, autoimmune diseases hardly exist in these countries and obesity, type-2 diabetes and all the other diseases we have come to accept as normal in modern cultures are almost non-existent.

Bathing everyday with antiseptic soaps and shampoos harm the beneficial microbes on our skin and thereby degrade our immune system.

I bathe with soap and shampoo, only once a week; on other days its just water.

The soap and shampoo you use is also very important. I suggest you use pure, chemical free products. It has hit the news that a very famous US baby shampoo manufacturers puts carcinogenic chemicals in their baby shampoo.

Most people don’t realize that the biggest organ in our body is our SKIN. It is very important that we don’t kill the beneficial microbes living on our skin. Just as important is that we don’t expose our biggest organ to harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by our body. What immediately comes to my mind is CHLORINE, which is used in many swimming pools as a sanitizing agent. It is not something you want your body to absorb.  If you think taking a shower after swimming will negate the bad effects of chlorine, it’s already too late.

She mentions a man who has not showered in 12 years and is supposedly super healthy.

Anyway, getting back to my argument that “nobody gets sick from being exposed to cold” was proven in a very graphic and, I must say, sad way last week. As you may know, Turkey has had a tremendous inflow of Syrian refugees since the start of the war. Most Syrian refugees out in the streets have become beggars in order to survive. Last week the temperatures in Istanbul were around 3-5 degrees centigrade (37-41 degrees Fahreheit). I saw a little girl, maybe 8 years old, barefooted and with just a wool vest on her back, begging from cars stopped in traffic. I looked out for her, the next few days and saw her again and again. A very sad situation indeed, but she sure wasn’t sick.  In fact, she was cheerful and running around, almost making a game of her parent’s instructions to beg. We can immediately rule out that she was “eating clean” and cannot argue that she was used to cold climates.

The only thing that comes to my mind is her microbiome and thus a very strong immune system.


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