March 9, 2012
At the “Base of the Pyramid,” “digestive health” issues kill 1.5 million children each year from diarrhea-induced dehydration. Electrolytes worth centimes a day--together with clean water--can save a baby or child, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been making a huge a difference here.
I have a friend who had to be hospitalized a few times with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or rather Spastic Colon, a more accurate name for the condition, as Amy Vidali has argued in her wonderful paper, Out of Control: The Rhetoric of Gastrointestinal Disorder. That’s a disease against which probiotics might yet prove effective. But people don’t take probiotic yogurt for diarrhea or Spastic Colon; according to a 2008 article in Slate, they take it (at least women do) out of the false belief that it’ll make them thin.
Is it false? Who knows? That something hasn’t been proven in two independently run controlled clinical trials doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I’m sort of kidding here - I don’t think probiotic yogurt can help keep you thin. Probably not, but hey - while you’re debating the evidence pro and con, take a spoonful of this. You’ve heard probiotics are good for you, haven’t you? Well, this stuff’s swimming with probiotics! Meanwhile the creamy goodness is slipping down your throat and you just want more.
Probiotics are deliciously emblematic of the state of our industry. People buy it believing it does something that’s probably not true about it. But it’s probably good for them anyway, for other reasons. Meanwhile, a return to ancestral health ways could give you a lot of what you’re looking for.
Traditional foods provide big bubbly cauldrons of delicious probiotics in the daily diet. You can certainly buy Activia for the taste. But if it’s probiotics you’re after, the smarter way to do would be to discover traditional (probiotic) deliciousness. How easy this is depends on your culture and family. My ancestors are from France, the land of smelly cheese, but I was born in Canada, where you can eat tree sap, but cheese made from (probiotic) raw milk is illegal. I remember refusing (probiotic) “choucroute” (fermented cabbage) during trips to the Old Country (Marseille) as a kid. My wife introduced me to real, i.e. Kosher pickles, made in (probiotic) brine. There’s nothing better than biting into a real Kosher pickle (Bubbie’s brand is the model here; but they’re ridiculously easy to reverse-engineer and make at home.) They, along with sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and kimchi, have become part of my diet. What traditional, delicious (probiotic) foods are in yours?
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