Updated: Oct 9
Between my immune system breakdown caused by Lyme and Epstein-Barr, and rampant Candida and mold overgrowth caused by daily hidden mold exposure, I was so sick I could eat only meat for days at a time. Any plant matter at all caused awful fungal digestive symptoms that threatened more gut damage, increasing my allergic reactivity to the few foods I could still tolerate. After losing about 20 pounds in a couple of months, I could feel my body starting to give up. A miraculous answer to prayer, this probiotic quite literally saved my life.
Please know I'm not a doctor, just an observant mama who has learned a lot through my own chronic illness and the challenge of raising sick kids. Far from medical advice, I'm just sharing my experience, theories and suggestions here - things I wish had been available when I was desperately seeking answers on my journey. Always get medical counsel from your doctor but I would love to pray for you - just send me a message below. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases made through the links I have shared below - thank you for your support of this website endeavor!
There are some moments when you know for certain that God has heard and directly answered your specific prayer. In my case, that prayer was for a probiotic that had E. faecalis (which I knew had helped me fight Candida in the past), but was made without dairy, because I knew I needed to give it to my youngest son as well, who was not tolerating the one that we had because of the dairy medium it was grown on, and who was having worse and worse fungal diarrhea without it.
What I have trouble believing was that in His amazing power, God answered my prayer before I was even born, via the food poisoning of a curious and brilliant Japanese man!
Think about that for a minute!! When we feel like things aren't going the way they should in the moment, or wonder why God has let something we see as bad happen, just remember Romans 8:28, and really truly take heart to believe it -
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
God used an awful event in 1981 - the food poisoning of Dr. Ichiroh Ohhira while he was visiting Malaysia as a landscape architect for the opening of a park he had designed - and turned it into an accessible probiotic product that quite literally saved my life, and that of my kids. I am blown away at the intricacy of God's hand working good through the maze of worldly evil and time to answer prayer! Why oh why do I ever doubt?
Anyway, a long story short, Dr. Ohira was given a fermented paste by a local Malaysian shaman, and healed from the vomiting almost immediately. He was so intrigued, he went back to school at the age of 49 and got his Ph.D. in microbiology in order to further study how this fermented concoction helped his body recover so quickly. That was how Dr. Ohhira's unique probiotic was born. (The link to his story is at the bottom of this post.)
Why is Ohhira's Probiotic Different from Any Other?
Doctors had given us lots of probiotics to try. Many just made my stomach hurt without any perceivable difference in digestive symptoms, and others actually increased the hyperactivity of my son due to immune system response to certain foreign bacteria.
When God pointed me to Ohhira's, I was hopeful, because I understood from Dr. Nemechek's research (I'll detail more about this in later posts) that there is much more to gut health than just the microbes that are present. Nemechek's protocol recommendation is to avoid all probiotics because freeze-dried bacteria do not often create new colonies in your intestines, and if you add strains that you do not already have, you can actually cause more problems than good. He says he sees an increase in some autistic children's inflammatory symptoms due to probiotic use (which I saw in my son as well with other probiotics, but not this one!). Instead, his goal is to regrow one's own good bacteria where they should be, specifically your own helpful strains in the small intestine. (Here is the link to Dr. Nemechek's book if you want to know more about his work.)
However, I knew from my personal experience with The Nemechek Protocol (TM), that because of my fungal problems, probiotics were absolutely critical to my recovery - avoiding them completely, as he had insisted, was a very costly mistake - certainly the straw that broke the camel's back when I got incredibly sick with Lyme, and the mold and Candida took me down (again a story for another post). But what I completely agree with is that the environment of your small intestine is a very delicate balance that can be upset by bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or fungal issues (which Dr. Nemechek argues do not exist...I feel like perhaps my experience might convince you otherwise).
Anyway, I saw the combination of antibiotic usage, immune disfunction and fungal exposure tip the scales in favor of fungal overgrowth so badly for me that any time I would eat, it would give me awful diarrhea and gut damage because it was feeding the fungus and bad bacteria that thrive in the fungal environmental conditions, and not my good bacteria. Not that I have a whole lot of them left. After doing a stool test, my doc actually looked at me and said, "Well, that's the lowest bacterial variability I've ever seen." I was devastated, because I was missing whole phyla, including all of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria - your two most important sets of good guys!! I seriously saw no hope of recovery (I was actually starting to imagine having to do a back alley fecal transplant as a last resort), and I saw my body losing strength daily from not being able to eat, and therefore not being able to fight off all the infections. I saw myself wasting away like an AIDS patient.
But that's the blessing of God's answer via Ohhira's Probiotic. It's made with the good guys AND their prebiotic food, fermented for 3-5 years, so they've already created all of the products that should be in your small intestine, creating the perfect environment for your own friendly bacterial (re)growth!
Let's Talk More About Prebiotics and Postbiotics
I'll discuss more about prebiotics in my discussion of Nemechek's protocol, but suffice to say here that anyone with fungal issues needs to be VERY careful with prebiotics. We found out the hard way that they act like sugars and will feed a fungal infection (and perhaps Lyme too...honestly I'm not sure if that was a player in the awful reaction my son had to inulin). So I was concerned that Ohhira's prebiotic mixture would (like any other prebiotic I had tried) feed the fungal infection as well, because it includes fruits. Thankfully the Lord graciously provided, and it does not!! I believe this is because of the beautiful action of the postbiotics. These are all the metabolites that the good bacteria are supposed to be naturally making for you in your small intestine, to help with digestion, and create the right pH for the growth of the good guys and NOT fungus or the types of bad bacteria that cause SIBO. It's an awful cycle when you're missing those metabolites (as can be initiated after killing off good bacteria via antibiotic usage), because the bad guys get a foothold, and then they change the environment in their favor, furthering your digestive problems, and killing off more of your good guys, starting the downward spiral that seemed impossible to reverse.
But by God's beautiful grace, and Dr. Ohhira's persistent curiosity, his probiotic, which includes the food, good guys, and their metabolites, literally changed the environment in my stomach and small intestine from the first day I tried it. Suddenly I was able to start eating some vegetables again. And whenever I would start to feel the pain of a digestive flare, taking 1-3 pills immediately would make the pain stop right away, with no damage done. Pretty soon all our stools were looking much more solid and diarrhea much less frequent.
It's been a long road, and we're not fully healed yet, but Dr. Ohhira's Probiotic (taken with every meal and any time there is any digestive discomfort whatsoever for our family) has tipped the scales back in favor of the good guys.
Only one question for me remains - if I have another stool test done after a year or two of taking Dr. Ohhira's Probiotic...will the results be different? Will my good guys have grown back, once given the right conditions? If I somehow have the extra $400 at that point, like Dr. Ohhira, I'm curious enough to find out - and I'll be sure to share with you when I do!
(One final word of caution - as with any probiotic, please start very very small, like one teeny tiny taste of the pill. Ohhira's is a paste, so you can cut the pill open and try a bit - this is nice for giving it to little guys - you can scoop out the insides, or my two-year-old just chews his. I have heard anecdotes of people reacting very badly to probiotics (and I have personally experienced an awful die-off flu-like reaction the first time I tried too many probiotics in one day), so it's always a good idea to start really slowly and see how your body reacts. Once you know you tolerate it well, you can up the amount slowly, day by day. After building up, we did the recommended gut "reset" using the 5-year fermented type, and I found taking three pills with each meal helped most, plus one at bedtime. After that the boys and I were able to cut down to about four 1/2 pills a day for now, with meals.)
We are doing so much better in terms of gut health, that after about a year of taking Ohhira's with every meal, (along with doing binders daily to rid the gut of the toxins that were creating such an unhealthy gut environment) we've been able to cut down to about one pill a day. And we're all able to tolerate many more foods, even grains like SRSLY sourdough gluten-free bread, sprouted oatmeal and sprouted brown rice! Unfortunately we still need to get rid of the underlying infections (Lyme & coinfections and mold in particular) to be able to tolerate the sugar in things like fruit or potatoes without triggering symptoms, but at this point, the amazing thing is that those symptoms, when we get them, are no longer painful to the digestive system! Thank you Dr. Ohhira!
If you want to know more, here's Dr. Ohhira's story.