The Probiotic Promise

Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out


By Michelle Schoffro Cook

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Discover the health secret you’ve been waiting for

You’ve heard how beneficial probiotics are for gut health; new research reveals that they can do much more! Probiotics can also improve a host of other conditions, from allergies to arthritis, depression to obesity — they have even been shown to inhibit cancer and antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Now Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook shares this groundbreaking research, demonstrating the link between gastrointestinal health and overall well-being. She offers concrete ways for you to use this extraordinary information, explaining how to use probiotics to address a range of medical issues. In this cutting-edge prescription for overall wellness, you’ll discover:
specific strains of probiotics and the more than 50 conditions they can help
the benefits of incorporating probiotics into your day-to-day life
how to select the best supplement for your health concerns
tips for adding more probiotic-rich foods to your diet
more than 30 delicious and nutritious probiotic-rich recipes


Chapter 1

The Health Secret We’ve All Been Waiting For

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

—World Health Organization

Anne Overcomes IBS

Anne, a stay-at-home mother with two young children, came into my office looking for a natural approach to what she suspected was irritable bowel syndrome. Test after test had ruled out colitis, Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, and just about every other intestinal disease imaginable. She had read about irritable bowel syndrome and suffered from the symptoms of the condition, including abdominal cramping with alternating constipation and diarrhea, among others.

After reviewing the diet diary I had asked her to complete for the week prior to her appointment with me, I found she ate like most North Americans—a lot of junk. Because she was always chasing after a two-year-old (I’m sure most moms can attest that this is no small task on its own!), trying to keep a clean home, balance her husband’s hectic work and travel schedule with the needs of her mother who required ongoing care and attention, she often resorted to TV dinners or frozen packaged foods.

I explained to her that “you really are what you eat: what you eat is broken down into the building blocks of every cell, tissue, and organ in your body. So if you’re suffering from ill health, that’s a sign your body may be failing at the cellular level—not getting adequate nutrition to form healthy cells and tissues.” I also discussed that our bodies are not meant to eat the myriad chemicals found in packaged foods, nor are they meant to ingest so much sugar. Although she insisted she didn’t eat much sugar, I kept a couple of empty packages from frozen foods in my office and pointed out the number of grams of sugar each one contained. I also explained that we should never eat that much sugar at a single meal. Even if she didn’t eat dessert, she had already eaten the equivalent in sugar at every meal whenever she ate these packaged foods.

She still didn’t get what the “big deal” about sugar was. I explained that high amounts of sugar literally sent her body into crisis mode, causing her energy levels, moods, and bowels to respond. Depending on whether she was eating enough fiber on any particular day, that flood of sugar into her intestines might result in cramping, diarrhea, or constipation.

I asked her to eat a whole foods diet consisting of vegetables, a small amount of fruit eaten on an empty stomach, and lean protein and to gradually increase the amount of legumes, starting with only a tablespoon. I also encouraged her to avoid any food with more than ten grams of sugar at one time as well as any food with chemical ingredients she couldn’t pronounce.

I also recommended a probiotic supplement that contained Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum, explaining that these probiotics were naturally present in her body when she was born and that the chemicals and sugar in her diet, among other lifestyle factors, had depleted her natural stores. I also conveyed that this product was completely natural and that I felt it was one of the best things she could do for irritable bowel syndrome.

A month later she came back, explaining that the constipation and diarrhea as well as the cramping were much better. She estimated that her symptoms had improved about 70 percent in only one month. Additionally, what surprised her the most was that she had so much more energy. Only a month ago she could barely keep up with her two-year-old but now was finding that she wanted to do more—go out more and spend more time in the park with her kids and even had more energy to make meals. A total convert to a healthier diet and probiotics, Anne now ensures her husband and children eat the same healthy diet.

Every time I open a health magazine or nutrition journal I see probiotics. Every time I turn on the television or browse through a health food store I observe claims for “probiotic-rich” foods and supplements, all claiming to offer hope in the treatment of illness and reversal of disease. Probiotics are being called the “supplement of the year” and “health food of the year” everywhere I turn. There is no doubt that the topic of probiotics is extremely popular right now.

Even if you are not involved in the health field like I am or have had little interest in health until now, you have probably still heard about probiotics in passing or seen the television commercials and magazine advertisements for the many foods, beverages, and supplements that contain or at least claim to contain probiotic cultures. You may enjoy your morning yogurt or afternoon yogurt snack with the hope of receiving the intestinal health benefits they offer. But even though you’ve probably heard about probiotics, you may still be wondering, What exactly are they? Scientists describe probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”1 Simply put, they are living bacteria and other microorganisms that have the ability to improve your health, boost your immune system, improve digestion, and increase your body’s capacity to prevent or fight disease. Scientists around the world are making discoveries that are dramatically changing our collective medical history, holding the promise of significantly greater individual health and possibly even reversing many of the serious diseases that plague us in our modern age.

As a doctor of natural medicine and a health journalist for almost twenty-five years, I spend my days poring through the latest scientific research on foods, supplements, herbs, nutrients, oils, and natural therapies. In my earliest years of research I occasionally found studies on probiotics, but as the years progressed, so did the volume of research. Now hundreds of studies are being added to the collective literature on probiotics every year. We have probably doubled our total knowledge of probiotics in just the last couple of years. I worked with Anne, who I mentioned above, about twenty-three years ago. You’ll recall that Anne complained of intestinal problems, namely, irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal cramping. At that time the only probiotic supplement options available included two strains of probiotics. When I recommended the product as part of her overall health-building program, she was reluctant to take them. After all, she conveyed, “Lactobacillus acidophilus sounds too complex to be natural,” and Anne wanted a completely natural approach. I reassured her that not only was the product totally natural, they were intended to replenish bacteria that are naturally present in our bodies and in many food items. They worked remarkably for her. Jump ahead twenty-three years, and my clients actually come to my office asking for probiotics and concerned if there aren’t many different strains. They want the most products with billions of live cultures and more strains than they can count. You’ll find out later why this is not always the best idea. Nowadays it can actually be difficult to find a two-strain probiotic supplement like the one I used with Anne with great results. As the science advanced, so have the products. Now it’s common for me to use probiotic supplements as my “go to” products for almost every client and condition. That’s because they set the stage for the body’s own innate healing.

What the Research Means for You

Not only did the volume of probiotic research skyrocket over the last couple of years, but scientists around the globe also began studying the effects of probiotics on diseases that go well beyond the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They explored and are continuing to explore the effects of probiotics on everything from allergies and arthritis to depression and obesity. They even found probiotics that are effective against various types of cancer and HIV and AIDS. As if that weren’t enough, probiotics are working when antibiotics and other medical interventions for serious infections fail. This research is shedding light on the role beneficial bacteria play in our health, and it goes far beyond our intestines. Study after study shows that probiotics are effective for healing and deserve a rightful place in our medicine cabinets, whether we are more comfortable with natural medicines or prefer pharmaceutical drugs.

That means that no matter where you fall on a spectrum of health to illness, you can experience the life-changing benefits probiotics offer. And if you’re suffering from illness, you’ll discover that The Probiotic Promise, which is the synthesis of all of the best research out there, offers promise and hope.

So much of this incredible research isn’t even mainstream news; I wrote this book to share it with you with the hope that through The Probiotic Promise you will discover new ways to prevent illness, treat the health problems you’re experiencing, transform your health, and experience the vitality that is your birthright. It incorporates the discoveries of some of the world’s greatest scientists into an easy-to-follow approach that anyone can use to improve his or her health. This cutting-edge research offers the missing key to great health that can transform the body at the minutest level, restoring microbial balance that works through every system of the body, thereby restoring health in the process. Over time I believe that the collective research of these many great scientists all over the world will likely make our current “medical marvels” in the pharmaceutical world seem tiny in comparison to the power of probiotics.

Not Just for Gut Health

Exciting new research shows that some strains of probiotics are killing superbugs even when antibiotics stop working. Even better, research demonstrates that the superbugs do not develop resistance to probiotics in the way they learn to resist antibiotics! That’s largely due to the complex structure of probiotics. By comparison antibiotics are quite simple in chemical structure. Superbugs can’t outsmart probiotics the way they outsmart antibiotics, which is great news when you consider the rapidly growing accounts of antibiotic resistance: over 70 percent of all pathogenic bacteria in hospitals are at least minimally resistant to antibiotics.2 You’ll also learn in Chapter 3 how probiotics can assist in the treatment of infections. Probiotics are poised to become the weapon of choice against infections of the future.

Most people think probiotics, the bacteria found in yogurt, fermented foods, and supplements, are intended exclusively for digestive health. It’s the myth that many authors, health professionals, and corporations perpetuate. And to be fair, it is likely because they probably aren’t aware of the vast body of research that shows the benefits of probiotics beyond the GI tract. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what these micro-miracle workers can do. Exciting new research reveals that healthy bacteria can heal a whole host of health conditions, including allergies, arthritis, celiac disease, depression, and brain disease, and can even help inhibit cancer, HIV, and AIDS. We’ll discuss these conditions and the probiotics that help them in Chapter 4: New Hope for Serious Illnesses (except HIV and AIDs, which we’ll discuss in Chapter 3).

Currently, people are needlessly suffering from many health conditions. That’s because they’re unaware of a critical piece of the healing puzzle: microbial balance within the body. Without addressing this foundation for health, their healing results may be short-lived or unsuccessful. By taking the right strains of live probiotic bacteria, in the right quantities and at the right time, a person’s health can be transformed, increasing the body’s resistance to future bouts with disease. Unfortunately, few people know what the right strains, quantities, or timing should be. Instead, most people take probiotics in an ad hoc manner and say they didn’t work, but their lack of efficacy is a reflection of the misuse of probiotics. I’ll explain more about how to choose and take probiotic supplements in Chapter 5: How to Select Probiotic Supplements, or how to propagate them in the food you make in your own kitchen in Chapter 6: Fall in Love with Fermented Foods.

Many corporations that manufacture yogurt, probiotic-containing beverages, and supplements aren’t helping the situation either. Some companies claim that their products contain “live cultures” when they do not. Many claim their products contain “important prebiotics” when they are simply loaded with sugar, which can aggravate health conditions, like they did in Anne’s case. And commercials with “dancing” abdominal cartoon-style molecules or fictitious names of bacteria (“BL Regularis,” for example, which is a made-up name, albeit a trademarked one, and not a real type of probiotic bacteria) only further the confusion and misinformation. Those products that contain live bacterial cultures rarely contain the many cultures needed for strong disease resistance and often don’t contain live cultures at all. You’ll learn more about the many strains of beneficial bacteria in fermented foods in Chapter 6.

What’s in It for You?

There are many benefits this book will offer you. You’ll discover:

          1.  the rampant myths about probiotics—and how to avoid falling prey to them

          2.  why you should incorporate probiotics into your day-to-day life

          3.  the many research-proven health benefits of adding probiotics to your life, from digestion to infections, and so much more

          4.  why you’ll want to make probiotics your “go to” natural remedy for a wide variety of concerns

          5.  how to select the best probiotic supplement for you at this time in your life

          6.  how your probiotic needs may change over your lifetime and vary greatly from one person to another

          7.  that many probiotic-rich foods go well beyond yogurt, that many yogurts aren’t the health foods the companies claim, and that some are actually worse than doughnuts

          8.  how to add more probiotic-rich foods to your diet

          9.  how to make more probiotic-rich foods and why you’ll want to, including delicious and nutritious probiotic-rich recipes to help you get started

        10.  a new and delicious way of eating that you’ll want to continue for your lifetime

Ultimately, if you implement the suggestions throughout this book, you’ll experience greater health, reduced likelihood of infections, and stronger immunity. If you’re like most of my clients, you’ll gain greater energy, vitality, and quality of life. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll gain a greater respect and appreciation for your body and the probiotic helpers it relies upon.

How to Use This Book

Some of my earliest nutrition studies indicated that intestinal health was the key to vibrant health. Twenty-five years have passed, and now scientists have validated this belief with volumes of research. A tremendous opportunity awaits us as we incorporate a wide range of probiotics and probiotic-rich foods into our diet and lifestyle to prevent and, in some cases, even reverse disease. Even in those twenty-five years we’ve come a long way from believing that probiotics were essential for a healthy GI tract. It is true that probiotics are essential to a healthy gut, but they are also essential for a healthy brain, heart, immune system, and so much more. They are critical to our health, yet they are still the most overlooked part of a healthy lifestyle. I will share some of the most overlooked secrets of great health in this book.

I have spent the last quarter-century as a health journalist, author of sixteen books, and in earning advanced degrees in nutrition and health. During my research and writing I came across study after study of the benefits of various probiotic bacteria. Intrigued, I collected them in a file folder that eventually grew into a filing drawer full and, later, a cabinet full of the latest research on these health-promoting bacteria.

I’ve translated the medical jargon and the hundreds of scientific studies into real-life approaches you can use to improve your health immediately. I will share some of the most exciting research throughout The Probiotic Promise, but I have also included a separate appendix at the back of the book summarizing additional essential research, The Cutting-Edge Research, for those who want to delve deeper into the thought-provoking science behind The Probiotic Promise.

This research is transforming our understanding of our bodies, many health conditions, and even how to overcome these health concerns. I believe this research is so important that it is in the midst of revolutionizing our health care system from the current medical way of treating disease to a more natural, harmonious system of giving the body the tools it needs to overcome illness and restore health. That might seem like semantics, but it’s not. Many drugs simply suppress symptoms but never restore health. Yet isn’t health what we’re all after? Remember that health is not just the absence of symptoms; it is the restoration of vitality, energy, and quality of life. And probiotics definitely play a role, as they are the foundational components of a healthy body.

The Probiotic Promise is the culmination of this startling research featuring the array of health benefits arising from these helpful flora. Although most people simply take the probiotic supplement their local health food store representative recommended to them, this one-size-fits-all approach to popping probiotic pills is really not that effective. There is no single strain of probiotic bacteria that is a magic pill for every health condition. The more effective way to get results with probiotic supplements is to find the scientifically proven strains of probiotics that are effective for the health condition(s) you face. The best probiotic for allergies is not the best probiotic for brain diseases, and the best ones for boosting immunity against cancer are not the best ones for depression, and so on.

Many people take an ad hoc approach to probiotics, expecting that the one-supplement-fits-all approach will miraculously cure them of whatever ails them. The Probiotic Promise will arm you so as to ensure that you are getting the best strains of beneficial bacteria for the specific health condition or conditions you are experiencing. You’ll learn more about which strains of probiotics and probiotic-rich foods are best for your conditions in Chapters 4 to 6.

It will also guide you in your selection of high-quality probiotic supplements, explain how to tell whether the cultures in your yogurt are truly live (see the Yogurt Test in Chapter 5), and how to ensure they remain intact through the GI tract. It’s important that you are empowered to take charge of your life. So I have presented vital healing information in a practical, do-it-yourself format that’s easy to follow.

Supplements are only part of the equation; you can reap the benefits of probiotics by incorporating more fermented foods into your diet. I will also share the forgotten food-preservation techniques our ancestors used for hundreds, even thousands of years. Although these techniques were originally developed to preserve food, they also offer the health benefit of increased numbers of beneficial microbes of many different types. These probiotic-rich foods and beverages are also known as fermented or cultured foods. I will be using all three terms interchangeably throughout The Probiotic Promise. These foods are part of our forgotten heritage, and our ancestors ate them in large quantities, contributing to their ability to preserve food for use during winter when they couldn’t grow fresh vegetables and in scarce times. These techniques are not archaic relics of a more primitive past; they turn good foods into healing superfoods that help prevent and reverse many kinds of diseases. You may be surprised to learn that fermenting these foods doesn’t just boost their healing abilities; the fermentation process ramps up their nutritional value and makes otherwise boring and bland foods taste delicious. What’s more, these nutritious and even life-saving cultured foods are simple to make at home and actually save time and make mealtimes easier, contrary to what you may have heard. Most of these foods require no special equipment.

Chapter 7 is devoted to recipes for some of my favorite delicious, naturally fermented, health-supportive foods. There are recipes that can be included in every meal, such as Savory Dairy-Free Greek-Style Yogurt, Curtis’s Chocolate Banana Pro Smoothie, Soft and Creamy Dairy-Free Cheese, Fermented Green Tea (Kombucha), Green Chili Hot Sauce, Roasted Red Pepper Soft Cheese, Apple-Cabbage Kraut, Creamsicle Ice Cream, and many others.

Even if you have no interest in creating cultured foods, in this book you’ll discover how readily available and affordable probiotics of many different varieties can help you overcome allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and other serious health conditions. Regardless your reason for reading The Probiotic Promise, I hope to share my passion for probiotic therapy, an approach to health that is almost unexplored and nothing less than miraculous.

And, as I mentioned earlier, this approach is about transforming health from the inside out as opposed to simply slapping a Band-Aid on a symptom or a condition. As an example, our medical approach of using antibiotics to rampantly kill bacteria in the body may work to kill an infection—although it may no longer work now that bacteria are becoming resistant, which I’ll discuss in greater detail shortly. Probiotics, as the research shows, frequently work as well as and sometimes better than antibiotics when we already have an infectious disorder, but they are also an integral part of our bodies and their makeup, so restoring them helps to ensure our bodies function well, and we may avoid future infections altogether.

Probiotics vs. Antibiotics

You may be wondering how probiotics differ from antibiotics. Probiotics literally mean “supports life,” whereas antibiotic means “against life.” Within each of these words you’ll actually find the method by which they work. Probiotics work in many different ways, but all of them support health so your body will be stronger to fight harmful pathogens. They primarily work by strengthening the beneficial bacteria in your intestines and elsewhere in your body. An increased number of beneficial microbes can also sway the “intermediate” microbes to act as beneficial microbes. Conversely, antibiotics indiscriminately kill microorganisms, both beneficial and harmful. With that rampant killing of microbes, harmful microbes can more readily settle and take hold in the body, leaving us vulnerable to infections. That’s why so many people complain of getting a yeast infection or other type of infection or diarrhea and other uncomfortable symptoms after a period of antibiotic use.

Antibiotics may be beneficial in some instances and have saved many peoples’ lives; however, it is the current overuse and misuse of them that is a serious problem. In this way they are playing a role in causing pathogenic bacteria to overgrow, causing infection, or, worse, to strengthen and cause superbugs. Moreover, the medical establishment’s chosen weapon against superbugs—antibiotics—are becoming less and less effective against these infections. That’s because the superbugs have adapted to the genetic composition of the antibiotics—in essence, they’re outsmarting them!

As Dr. Hiromi Shinya so aptly stated, “We cannot find our way to health by trying to destroy whole categories of life.”3 Yet that is exactly the approach we have taken with antibiotics. We administer antibiotics whether we have a cold, flu, or some other infection even though antibiotics don’t work on colds or flu, as they are viral illnesses, not bacterial ones. Even if the infection is bacterial, we indiscriminately kill beneficial bacteria that assist us in eliminating infections along with the infection-causing bacteria when we take antibiotics.

I’m not suggesting that we should eliminate antibiotics. As I mentioned, they have saved many people’s lives; however, our current use is dangerous and causing the development of superbugs that pose a serious threat to our health. We’ll discuss antibiotics and their use and misuse in greater detail in Chapter 3 along with probiotic options to reduce the harmful side effects of antibiotic drugs.

Chapter 2


  • "Michelle's books are my health bibles. If you want glowing, vibrant health, let brilliant Michelle be your guide."—Kris Carr, New York Times bestselling author and founder of

    "Michelle Schoffro Cook takes us on a whirlwind tour of the microbiotic subculture of our bodies and in the process reveals the astonishing number of ways good bacteria can help us live longer, stronger, and happier lives. You'll walk away with all the tools you need to take your level of well-being from so-so to super."—Carol Brooks, Editor-in-Chief, First for Women magazine

    "Dr. Cook's work is unique, empowering, informative, and guides us toward a healthy future. I highly recommend her work and books."—Mallika Chopra, founder,

    Taste for Life, August 2015
    “With years of expertise in natural health and holistic nutrition, Michelle Schoffro Cook offers readers a guide to healing their bodies through the use of these supplements. Learn how to select probiotics, how to tell if the cultures are truly ‘live,' and how to make sure they'll survive the gastrointestinal tract…Probiotic-rich recipes are included too.”

On Sale
Feb 3, 2015
Page Count
288 pages

Michelle Schoffro Cook

About the Author

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, PhD, RNCP, ROHP, holds advanced degrees in natural health and holistic nutrition and has two decades experience in the field. She has written several books on health and wellness and has been featured in Woman’s World, First for Women, the Huffington Post, and more. She is the publisher of the popular health e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News and is a regular blogger for,, and She lives in British Columbia, Canada.

Learn more about this author