There are two microbial species you should know about that can be obtained from fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut (fermented, not pickled), Camembert cheese, and fermented meats such as salami and soppressata. Their names are a mouthful, but they are:

  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides 
  • Pediococcus pentosaceus

I’ve discussed the power of Leuconostoc previously so you may recall that Leuconostoc mesenteroides has been shown to:

  • Reduce blood sugar—by consuming intestinal sucrose, glucose, fructose (converting them to mannitol). This effect can be substantial.
  • May prevent Parkinson’s disease—since the mannitol this species produces has been shown in preliminary studies to dissolve the alpha synuclein that accumulates in the brains of people with Parkinsonism
  • Suppresses proliferation of unhealthy fungal species such as Candida albicans and Candida glabrata
  • Helps detoxify lead—Leuconostoc binds lead in the gastrointestinal tract that is then passed out of the body (L-96 strain and others)

Pediococcus pentosaceus also has some interesting effects that include:

  • Blood sugar reduction (QU19 strain)
  • Helps detoxify cadmium—Pediococcus binds cadmium that is then passed out of the body (GS 4 strain). Cadmium exposure is cumulative, so anything that reduces exposure is a good thing.
  • Protects against food poisoning from pathogenic strains of E. coli (IM96 strain).
  • Protects against Clostridium difficile (LI05 strain), one of the dreaded after-effects of taking antibiotics
  • Inactivation of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) toxin of pathogenic/SIBO species
  • Produces vitamins B1, B2, B7, B9 (folate) and GABA
  • Exerts a modest weight loss effect

These are some pretty substantial benefits. The blood sugar-reducing effects of the combination can be especially significant.

Because there is no requirement to list the species of microbes contained in fermented foods, we often don’t know for certain whether these helpful species are included in, say, a specific brand of kimchi. It doesn’t mean that a brand of kimchi you purchased or that you fermented yourself doesn’t provide health benefits, because it does even without these two species. But if you are seeking a specific benefit such as an antifungal effect, a blood sugar-reducing effect, or protection from heavy metals, then it may be useful to know if your fermented food does indeed contain these species of Leuconostoc and Pediococcus.

Unfortunately, these species are not usually contained in commercial probiotics. One exception: the products from BiotiQuest such as Sugar Shift that contains Leuconostoc mesenteroides (as well as another species of Pediococcus). Another way to ensure that you are obtaining one or both of these microbes in your fermented foods is to purchase a starter culture meant for cheesemaking or fermenting meats that contain these species, then use them to ferment your own yogurt or other food. I find that hummus is an especially fermentation-friendly vehicle; dilute with (filtered) water (1/2 cup water per 1 cup hummus).

This is also one of the advantages of the Paleovalley (sponsor of my Defiant Health podcast) brand of fermented meats: they are fermented using a starting culture of Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Pediococcus pentosaceus so that you know you are getting these two important species. (Enter the discount code “defiant” to obtain a 15% discount when you order.)

And, of course, for a deep dive into the world of putting microbes to work for spectacular health benefits, see my new book, Super Gut: A 4-Week Plan to Reprogram Your Microbiome, Restore Health, and Lose Weight.