20 aug Bacteria for Life

Bacteria cause decay and disease, but they’re also the key to a long and healthy life.

A fierce wind is blowing over the wide-open fields of  farmers and agrarians an hour’s drive north of ?Amsterdam. Midwoud is home to organic farm De Anna Hoeve, where the Blokker family produces a very special drink: kefir, a creamy buttermilk-type dairy beverage. Farmer Ilse Blokker, a sprightly, friendly woman in boots, is just emerging from the stables into the yard.

Her husband, Paul Blokker, suddenly had this idea eight years ago, she says. “He said, ‘Humanity is going to run into trouble. The quality of our food isn’t good enough anymore. We need to change our way of thinking.’” His products were already organically grown, and no chemicals or antibiotics were allowed on his farm. But now he also decided to start producing kefir, which is said to date back thousands of years to the ancient shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains, between Europe and Asia.

The existence of kefir had almost been forgotten. But right now, the recipe is being dusted off all over the world. More and more research shows that we need healthy bacteria—such as the lactic acid bacteria in kefir—for a stronger immune system and better digestion. We call these health-boosting microorganisms “probiotics.” Good bacteria and yeasts are crucial in all types of processes in the body. “Most importantly, they keep the immune system on track,” says Liz Lipski, a clinical nutritionist and academic director of Nutrition and Integrative Health Programs at Maryland University of Integrative Health.

Lipski points out that there is a growing body of scientific work that says probiotics can modulate inflammatory responses in the body. Finding a way to prevent inflammation is one of the major challenges in the medical community today.