If there’s a superfood that can fight the flu and put the flu shot out of business, we’re all ears! Our interest has been piqued by a recent study published in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology. Japanese researchers isolated a strain of probiotic bacterium called Lactobacillus brevis KB290 from a Japanese pickle, and discovered that it successfully suppressed flu symptoms in mice exposed to the H1N1 flu virus. Researchers are hopeful that the flu-fighting power of L. brevis KB290 (already commercially marketed as a probiotic) extends to humans, and can take down deadly flu viruses like the H7N9 virus currently afflicting China.
Suguki Super Powers
Suguki pickles are served up as a traditional Japanese pickled turnip dish. When fully fermented and unpasteurized, suguki pickles contain L. brevis bacterium, a health-promoting bacteria found in healthy human intestines, vaginas, and feces.
Your immune system depends on the presence of healthful microflora swimming about in your intestines. Probiotics are a proven investment in health. Fortify your health with these live microbes to balance your digestive system and boost overall immunity.
When fed as a probiotic drink to mice, L. brevis stimulated the production of flu-fighting antibodies. Researchers believe the benefit may include protection against viral infections. They theorize that it is exopolysaccharides (the protective layer of sugars) that protects the bacteria from acid stomach juices and contributes its immune-enhancing effects.
L. brevis isn’t just a flu fighter. Scientists have previously confirmed that it can alleviate acute gastroenteritis cause by vibrio parahaemolyticus found in certain raw seafood and in instances of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Cooking Up Your Own Flu Prevention
It is highly unlikely that you can cook up the L. brevis KB290 strain isolated by the Japanese researchers. But pickling some turnips is bound to produce different strains of L. brevis, as well as other beneficial fermentative bacteria like Leuconostoc and Pediococcus. Take no shortcuts in the fermenting process. The Japanese do it by peeling and cutting turnips, and then lightly salting to promote pliability. Turnips are then packed firmly into a jar and layered with salt. The Japanese use a weight stick called a tenbin to weight the turnips, and then drain. They weight them again, until the fermentation process is complete, typically between two and four weeks.
For you cooks out there, choose from one of many pickling recipes, or get creative and “ferment” your own! Just be sure to avoid dampening the flu-fighting potential of pickled turnips with extra seasonings.