In order to comprehend many concepts shown in the following passage, I recommend that one reads the article entitled "Beneficial Bacteria" first.
I will start by quoting from the book called "The Handbook of Probiotics", By Yuan-Kun Lee, Koji Nomoto, Seppo Salminen, and Sherwood L. Gorbach:
"Probiotics are viable bacterial cell preparation of foods containing viable bacterial cultures or components of bacterial cells that have beneficial effects on the health of the host. Many of these probiotics are lactic acid bacteria. Probiotic lactic acid bacteria are useful in the treatment of disturbed intestinal microflora and increased gut permeability, which are characteristic to many intestinal disorders. Examples include acute rotavirus diarrhea, other intestinal dysfunctions, subjects with food allergy, subjects with colonic disorders .."
"During the recent decade a major change has taken place in the way in which the biological activities of the human colon are viewed. It has been observed that the human colon is an intense area of metabolic activity that has an important role in digestion, with many of the functions attributed to the resident flora. The functions and dysfunctions of intestinal microflora offer the place for correcting or attempting to correct the balance of human intestinal microflora with systemic beneficial health effects for the host."
With the quotes above I just want to show that we are realizing more and more the health benefits of a healthy diet. The food industry needs to feed the masses in a profitable, economic way, and doesn't have a conscience. The bigger the profit margin, the better it is for them. Most of the advertisements that our society is flooded with on a daily basis totally lack substance, and only prey on our visual senses. This fosters diseases like obesity, digestive diseases, and all kinds of other disorders. Obesity is the outcome of eating too many fatty foods, concentrated carbohydrates (sugar), not enough complex carbohydrates (whole grains), which promotes a dysfunctional digestive system, which is more so emphasized by eating foods that don't contain any probiotic elements any more.
The combination of taking away foods that traditionally contained beneficial bacterial cultures (probiotics) to make products like kefir, yogurt, miso, sourdough bread, etc. Adding to this dilemma/scenario are the highly processed foods and protein intakes that form the basis of so many people's diets, presenting one with a fairly deadly cocktail. Even with all of our modern day medicines, we prolong our lives, but this doesn't reflect the quality of life, but it could be mirrored thus, if we consumed foods on a healthier basis. The majority of advertisers, and product presenters make a lot of money from treating the symptoms, but not the disease. Returning to a proper diet which is based on traditionally cultured foods, and limiting the other pleasure foods (foods meant to appeal to the senses, rather than having any nutritional value).
One obvious example of modern day manipulation that does not truly represent a traditional cultured food any more, is yogurt. If you read the ingredient list on any yogurt it says --- milk ingredients plus active bacterial culture. Our first impression is, "Oh good! It contains bacterial culture", but it is just like so many things in our processed industrial foods. When one makes yogurt by the tons, one doesn't want to take chances, so one first pasteurizes or sterilizes the whole process, and then introduces only specific bacteria into the system to guarantee the results. We have lost again the full spectrum of what constitutes a natural bacterial culture. Even so yogurt in general is a good choice but because of limiting factors in the processing, we are getting a tailored food. Maybe it is time to make smaller batches and revert back to traditional methods. We have within our power the technology to produce foods the traditional way. In our bakery, we emphasize the practice of including a full spectrum of these beneficial bacteria in our bread products.
We have to realize that we are an active part of the ecosystem/biosphere, and are fully dependent also on the microorganisms that are the building blocks of life. The importance is that we don't forget the equally important microbiological environment of our intestinal flora. Keeping this flora well nourished with appropriate foods that enhance the growth of good bacteria, will assure us of a happier life, health-wise, at least.
Our foods have been altered and consequently tampered with greatly in the past one hundred years, which has spawned many of our modern ailments. It has been easy to seduce our senses with many of our modern foods, many of which contribute to our illnesses, rather than our health.
We have to choose more sensibly if we want to ensure our future longevity. I hope that when you shop for your foods the next time you keep in mind the probiotic aspect of foods. Watch out for highly processed foods that are more dead then alive, and for foods that have been exposed to unnatural production techniques.