There is no better place to start a blog on yogurt than with the Russian scientist Ilja Metchinoff, he was the man responsible for revolutionising medical thinking on longevity, with his famous theory on the prolongation of life by preventing internal colonic putrefaction and self poisoning. What he was referring to, was that all disease starts and ends in the bowel.
You will never find anyone will a disease that does not have a corresponding bowel issue.
The bowels are designed to move 3-4 times per day, and only 100yrs ago anybody going only twice would go and see a doctor with the symptom of constipation. We gloss over this fact, but it is crucial to understand that the bowel must remove toxins from the body regularly to prevent self poisoning, and in some circumstances death.
People have died from not going to the toilet, many nurses/doctors have told me that if somebody is moving their bowel less than every three days they should be consulted.
Metchinoff who studied Bulgarians thoroughly was convinced that their exceptional longevity was primarily due to their diet, as they rank in the top contenders of nations consuming more soured milk in the form of yogurt and kefir, than anybody in the world.
Soured milk products have been shown to prevent and reverse intestinal putrefaction.
As Bulgarians have more centenarians, than any other civilised nation, it may be the best advice to follow their statement, "To live to 100yrs one must drink yogurt four times per day"
As I have seen over 22,000 clients come and go over the last 15yrs at the health retreat I worked at, I can testify that those with the worst health conditions did indeed have the least and most infrequent bowel movements.
It is at this point that I would like to state!
Bulgaria does not stand alone in their view of yogurt as a true life extender, you will find also Russians, Turks, Swiss, Africans, Norwegians and the Arabs as large fermented milk consumers.
Autopsies carried out on such Centenarians has shown that they do indeed possess at the age of 100yrs, a bowel similar to someone in their 20's and 30's.
Now that we know that the gut flora are responsible for up to 70-85% of the immune system, you can no longer hide your head in the sand.
If you have trouble with your gut and bowel, you also have trouble with your immune system.
Comparing the commercially produced yogurt of today compared to the homemade versions 100yrs ago is like comparing a domesticated poodle to a wolf in the Arctic still wild.
I also want to shed some light on the soured milk products, and what we consume in the west are vastly different from what these other nations were originally consuming. Just like the poodle that is a descendant from the wolf, our yogurt is a descendant of its original ancestor. The poodle has been domesticated for a very long time and if we were to place it back into its original habitat being the Arctic, how do you think it would survive? The same analogy applies to these commercially produced strains of probiotics, and yes this includes commercial yogurt. These products have been produced from the original in an isolated environment, that may have stopped it evolving.
There is a reason that probiotics have shown to drop in numbers in the body when you stop taking them, its a very hostile environment in there, with a community that has already established itself in numbers of trillions.
It's a war zone to which a few isolated nurtured strains of species are not going to be able to compete for space and food.
You would have heard of Acidophilus and Bifidus before, these are species of probiotic bacteria, but did you know that there are possibly thousands of different strains of the same bacteria? Yes, there are possible 3000 different strains of Acidophilus and you are only taking one.
How many of these do you think are in todays yogurt or probiotic pills?
Often one!! Yes one!!
As these bacteria are constantly evolving it makes no sense to be consuming these products produced from old redundant strains.
This is why I recommend fermented foods, that have been wildly fermented, not with added starters. So a thumbs up must go to kefir and sauerkraut, I do teach how to make wild yogurt at my homestay and workshops, but for those of you who don't have such access, I recommend the former sauerkraut and kefir, with a few words of caution, they must be raw, wild fermented and most importantly LOCAL. You will find that by consuming bacteria from your local environment it will inoculate you to help you in your environment.
Commercial products and probiotic numbers
Most commercial yogurts are fermented for less time to give them a longer shelf life, so there truly is no guarantee on the numbers of probiotic bacteria when you buy it, these bacteria will continue to grow as long as their is a food source but once this source is exhausted these bacteria will die off. Take for example my yogurt, I ferment it until the bacteria reach their peak, at this stage they have broken down the food components of the milk itself as well as digest all the lactose, which makes it very digestible, higher in enzymes and great for those with lactose intolerance.
Lastly, what about coconut yogurt?
It has been produced from coconut milk which is fantastic, but you will be limited in the probiotics they contain, remember the domesticated poodles and an isolated single strain where there are thousands in the original. A similar analogy would be for you to buy a car and I take the car but leave you the keys, its just a fragment to which science is just discovering the complexity of.
Don't get me wrong, I do like these commercial foods, but I see them for what they are foods, with a sprinkle of probiotics for good measure.
Yogurt being a pre-digested food will also will save your own digestive enzymes which has been shown to increase longevity and decrease the burden on the digestive system. Fermenting has also shown to increase the nutrition content of the original food several fold as well as producing new micriobiome not present in the original food.
As to the question of how much you should be consuming I would like to say that traditional bircher was really a bowl of yogurt with a spoon or two of muesli, not 1/2 cup of muesli with a spoon of yogurt. Many of true cultural practices are unfortunately lost in translation and time.