I had reservations about people younger than around age 40 or 45 consuming our powerful L. reuteri yogurt. My reservations arose from the fact that L. reuteri is a potent trigger for hypothalamic release of the hormone oxytocin that causes uterine contraction. Because of this effect, an injection of oxytocin is given to pregnant mothers at term to induce labor.
We can surmise from this that it is therefore not a good idea for a pregnant woman to consume the yogurt, as it may risk inadvertent uterine contractions. I also reasoned that, because women having normal menstrual cycles have painful uterine contractions, I was concerned that boosting oxytocin might cause worsening of uterine cramps, though there is no evidence for or against any such effect of oxytocin during menstrual cycles.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about these issues the last few months. While there are still gaps in our knowledge, we know several things with confidence that help us understand how to take advantage of the magnificent health benefits of L. reuteri. We know that:
- L. reuteri is meant to be delivered to babies via mother’s milk. It is therefore safe for infants. There are dozens of studies in which 100 million CFUs (bacterial counts) have been administer to infants resulting in less colic, less regurgitation, and other health benefits with not a single adverse effect reported. There are also numerous studies in children given doses as high as 10 billion CFUs with not a single adverse effect reported.
- According to the discoverer of this microorganism, Dr. Gerhard Reuter, the majority of people in Western countries harbored L. reuteri in their guts up until the mid-twentieth century. Now, the number of people still harboring this organism has dropped to less than 1 in 10, likely reflecting our modern exposure to factors that disrupt our microbiomes such as intermittent antibiotics, herbicides and pesticides in foods, GMOs, chlorinated water, etc. But it suggests that we are meant to have this microorganism in our intestines.
- L. reuteri has been administered in clinical trials to people from a wide range of ages in counts as high as 20 billion CFUs per day to reverse constipation, suppress or eradicate H. pylori, accelerate skin healing, avoid antibiotic-associated diarrhea, suppress the fungus, Candida, and a number of viruses, among other applications. No adverse side-effects have been reported.
But here is my lingering reservation: The counts we generate in our L. reuteri yogurt, because we ferment for an unusually extended period of 36 hours and add prebiotic fibers that act essentially as fertilizer to generate higher counts, are likely in the 100 billion CFUs per 1/2 cup serving range. (We are about to embark on obtaining formal bacterial counts to see whether my supposition is correct or whether we need to readjust.) This is the way we’ve been doing it that results in extravagant oxytocin-mediated benefits such as the anorexigenic effect (appetite suppression), hugely accelerated healing, faster hair growth, increased strength and muscle mass, increased dermal collagen and reduction of skin wrinkles. Is this dose of L. reuteri safe for younger people, especially menstruating women?
Anecdotally and unexpectedly, a handful of ladies younger than 45 years old have told me that the intensity of their menstrual cramps, as well as the emotional turbulence of their periods, have diminished dramatically on the yogurt. Could it be that uterine contraction is triggered only during pregnancy when the uterus becomes receptive to oxytocin? I don’t know. But I think that we should conduct a small clinical trial in menstruating non-pregnant females to formally validate and quantify any such effects. Imagine we could make that claim: the yogurt substantially reduces the intensity of menstrual cycles. That would be huge.
But until we have better quantification, here is what I suggest doing for young people, including menstruating females. Make yogurt but do not follow my recipe for the L. reuteri yogurt. Instead, start with a couple tablespoons of a commercial yogurt containing live cultures of, say, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacteria bifidum and others typically used to make conventional yogurt. Add 2 tablespoons prebiotic fiber, e.g., unmodified potato starch or inulin, per quart of organic half-and-half. (Remember: Make a slurry first with just a couple of tablespoons of half-and-half, then add the remainder. This keeps the prebiotic fibers from clumping.) Then add either your starting 10 crushed tablets of L. reuteri from Biogaia or 1-2 tablespoon of previously-made L. reuteri yogurt. The ferment as usual, but cut fermentation time to 18-24 hours. Crudely estimated, this will likely yield no more than 10-20 billion CFUs of L. reuteri per 1/2 cup serving. (I shall likewise be validating these estimates with formal bacterial counts in future.) The yogurt won’t be as thick and rich as our regular yogurt, and the flavors are slightly different. But this way, children and menstruating women can obtain the health benefits of L. reuteri and recolonize their colons with this species that was supposed to be there all along without being exposed to the ultra-high bacterial counts that our conventional L. reuteri yogurt contains.