Fermented cultures occur naturally in foods and beverages like water kefir (used in Obi), milk kefir, kombucha, yogurts, miso, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Every human culture throughout history has taken advantage of fermented cultures for health, food preservation, and recreation.
Isolated strains of microorganisms are a relatively recent phenomenon that has only really been an option since the advent of “modern” scientific equipment. In nature it’s nearly impossible for just one variety of microorganism to dominate a given area to the exclusion of other species – imagine just one species of plant on a hillside – it rarely happens and never lasts. However, in lab settings we can sterilize an area and then cultivate a single isolated strain, which can then be preserved in powder form.
There are perceived pros and cons to both fermentation and isolated strains. While Obi uses both, most of our microorganisms are derived from water kefir – a fermented culture. We’ve prioritized using a fermented culture for four key reasons:
- Fermented cultures contain multiple strains. Kefir is one of the most complex probiotic ferments and that’s why we chose it for Obi. Our water kefir has been tested and received genetic confirmation of at least 20 strains, versus a single strain for isolated probiotics. More strains means there are more beneficial actions taking place in your gut.
- Fermented cultures are heartier. Isolated strains can be produced and counted very precisely but they tend to die very quickly during transportation or when introduced to the body. Fermented cultures have lasted thousands of years for a good reason – they are robust!
- Fermented cultures produce a wide range of beneficial compounds. Due to the number of different strains, fermented cultures produce a wider variety of compounds than an isolated probiotic would. These range from beneficial acids to polysaccharides and vitally important to the functioning of various systems including the immune, nervous, digestive and cognitive systems.
- Fermented cultures work synergistically together and with the human body. Each microorganism has a specialized function, which creates a stronger probiotic. The digestive tract has hundreds of different bacteria, both good and bad, and a synergistic culture will have a much easier time setting up shop than a weaker isolated strain.