What do kombucha, pickles, yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi all have in common? They all are considered to be “probiotic” food—foods that contain live and active bacteria cultures that are good for you and help maintain a healthy digestive and immune system. Probiotic or “fermented” foods are fresh foods that have been inoculated with yeast and lactobacillus bacteria that break down the carbohydrates in the system and convert it into acid and gas. The acid provides the tangy flavor that you find in many fermented foods and gas provides the bubbles found in fermented beverages. The living bacteria in these products populates the gut and intestines and provide health benefits in numerous ways like reducing abdominal pain, inhibiting bad “pathogenic” bacteria and enhancing the utilization of consumed nutrients like protein. The strength of one’s immune system is based on the balance of good to bad bacteria. Probiotic “good” bacteria help support this balance enhance your body’s natural defenses. Everyone agrees that probiotics are good and having functional ingredients like probiotics listed on your food product label provides a competitive advantage in the food and beverage marketplace.
Most probiotic products begin with fresh foods that require refrigeration. Probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir have a short shelf life and any thermal process involved usually ends up killing the probiotic bacteria before they are even consumed. For this reason there are very few probiotic or “fermented” foods in the marijuana food space. Most dispensaries don’t have refrigeration to store these products and marijuana infused food companies don’t have the safety experience to make and sell potentially hazardous foods that contain dairy or require refrigeration for safety. Thus the marijuana market has so far not been able to provide probiotic foods to consumers.
Lately there have been a slew of products on the market that are shelf stable and also contain live and active probiotics that are more resilient than before, can withstand a thermal process and survive in shelf stable foods like gummy bears, dried pasta and chocolate bars. This super strong probiotic bacteria can survive the initial thermal manufacturing process used to make the food product, the journey from consumption to the intestinal tract and reproduce effectively enough to provide the gut health benefits. The bacterium is called Bacillus coagulans and it has FDA GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status and are supported by numerous third party clinical studies. There are several companies out there that sell their proprietary strains and these companies often exhibit at trade shows like Supply Side (www.supplyside.com) and IFT (www.ift.org).
Marijuana food products already provide recreational consumers and medical patients with a smoke free delivery method of THC. These food products can now provide even more healthy benefits by adding in shelf stable probiotics that can withstand processing conditions.
Rachel Zemser is a certified food scientist. To learn more about her visit: theintrepidculinologist.com