Recently, when working on research for an upcoming book that my husband and I are writing, I came upon some emerging information regarding GMO bacteria that has made me wonder about the popular use of probiotics in conventional medicine. As the world community grows continually aware of the risks associated with GMO food, many have taken steps to eliminate GMO foods from their diet. However, GMO bacteria are not widely understood and their use in making of supplements has gone virtually unnoticed.
Bacteria are often the producers of common supplements through processes of fermentation. However, they are also often the supplement themselves in the form of probiotics. Probiotics represent essential bacteria needed for gut balance, immune system function and even mood control. Many recognize their role in digestive health which has led to copious use of them in everything from yogurt to even milk. However, a GMO bacteria, much like a GMO food cannot be considered to be the same as its natural counterpart. We know that GMO foods cause disease; studies continue to emerge making that point ever more clear. Diseases including but not limited to cancer, behavior problems, and autoimmune conditions. Since in natural medicine, all health begins in the gut and truly every treatment plan of any worth initiates the healing process through the gut, I am ever concerned about the possibility that many of the probiotics in food and on store shelves are from GM organisms. Although as of yet, it is not totally obvious how many supplement makers are using GM bacteria to populate their products, if we consider that GM bacteria have been in use specifically for supplement manufacture as far back as the 1980’s. In fact, the tainted tryptophan that caused 37 deaths and resulted in the removal of tryptophan from the market was made using GM bacteria. I consider it very likely that the technology is also being used to make patented probiotic strains found in supplements and food.
The patents may be the key as natural bacteria like plants share common characteristics and DNA and can only be patented once DNA has been altered. Our gut is populated by millions of these essential life forms, and from one person to the next, the morphology of the organism does not change. Therefore, how could an acidophilus strain be patented unless it had been modified in some way? GM bacteria in soil have begun to show the ability to alter the entire ecosystem of the soil, causing disruption that if left unchecked will result in the inability of the soil to sustain life via inhibition of essential soil fungal forms. Since the goal of probiotics is to heal not further disrupt the life cycle of the gut, being mindful to avoid all GM bacteria is essential.
The first step to avoidance is focus on receiving probiotic strains from naturally raw and cultured foods. Some great examples are Kombucha, Raw organic lacto fermented or salt fermented sauerkraut, kimchee, and pickles, miso soup, tempeh, and keifer and keifer water. It is essential to note that the only sauerkraut and pickles that provide healthy bacteria are those that are raw; pasteurization destroys the probiotic strains and therefore negates any health benefit of eating these foods. Keifer as well, can now easily be found in many stores, however, it is made using pasteurized milk and has loads of added sugar, which will not produce supportive health of the gut or immune system. Making your own fermented foods is the easiest long term way to go, as it takes mere minutes to set up and by doing it yourself you have complete knowledge of what went into your finished product. Once you have implemented essential probiotic rich foods into the diet, then if there appears to be a continued need for bacterial support, sourcing probiotics that are certified GMO free is essential. Many companies, even those found in well respected health food stores will not be able to certify their products to be GMO free, and when in doubt, call the company and ask. Our knowledge of GM foods continues to grow, and although for many the topic seems daunting, it is essential to stay current and educated in order to avoid the illness they are known to promote.