My youngest child was born with lactose intolerance and suffered indigestion issues right from the beginning (even though she was breastfed exclusively). Eventually this problem kept her from sleeping--at all. It took me a very long time to figure out what the trouble was, but when I did and eliminated milk products from her diet, over time her sleep drastically improved until for the first time she even took a nap every day! For any parent who has experienced major sleep loss due to a child's chronic inability to sleep, you will understand when I say this return to sleep felt like a miracle! We are still hopeful that she will grow out of her lactose intolerance, but for now we keep her away from lactose products. However, she still has a more delicate digestive system than the rest of us and frequently needs help to digest and be regular. That is why I have given her daily doses of probiotics for almost two years now. This is how it came about:
About 17 or 18 years ago, a friend of my mom's, who was a vegan, suggested something that she thought would solve my mom's newly-acquired postpartum indigestion troubles. My mom tried it and it worked so well that she used this "treatment" regularly up until a couple years ago (at which point it had quit doing its job, so she started using something else). Knowing of my child's congenital digestion issues, my mom suggested I try it for her.
It's fermented wheat water. Though it may sound gross to those who are unused to trying things of this nature, to me growing up it wasn't a big deal. After all, Dr. Mom always used vitamins, herbs, and herbal teas to treat our families illnesses or keep us healthy, we always had cider vinegar and brewer's yeast on hand (both of which I liked to drink). My dad drank goat milk (sometimes stinky) for a while, and regularly made wheat grass juice during a different phase. So, fermenting wheat in water for a few days, then drinking it mixed with juice concentrate, was not at all odd. (Note: It is only allowed to cure for a few days and the fermentation process does not produce alcohol.)
When I first started giving it to my daughter she was under a year old and devoured it like it felt good to drink. In fact, the first time I tried it was the middle of the night when she awoke yet again, writhing in discomfort from indigestion, exhausted but unable to sleep. I gave her a bottle of the wheat water mixed with some juice concentrate and she practically inhaled a couple ounces, at which point she relaxed in my arms, and within about 10 minutes fell asleep for the rest of the night. Thus my husband christened it "Miracle Juice."
I am now an even bigger believer in the value of "good bacteria," which is what the wheat water provides. I don't know why yet, but for some reason my daughter's body must be unable to produce enough of this on its own.
One healthy food diet explains the need for fermented foods in the diet this way:
"They are an aid to digestion, are high in the B vitamins, and are full of enzymes. They provide an acid environment in the bowel whereby favorable bacteria can thrive and overcome unfavorable bacteria. Re-establishing beneficial bacteria to the colon is a major part of many health programs."
One health expert calls wheat water "Rejuvelac," which sounds better than "fermented wheat water" or "stinky juice" (which is something else we call it). I've found a few different sites with "recipes," but they're all very similar to each other and to mine.
Before I started making it for my daughter, I tried giving her chewable acidophilus wafers. She liked those, and they did seem to help some, but the wheat water is more potent and immediate, I think (like the difference between taking an herb capsule and drinking the herbal tea).
Here is what one website had to say about what fermented wheat water actually produces:
"The sprouting of the grains creates some sugars by enzymatic conversion, and these sugars are then eaten by friendly bacteria (naturally present on the grain hulls) during the 'fermentation' process, creating lots more of the living probiotic bacteria."
And for anyone interested in learning about the amazing-ness of probiotics, read this. Maybe we should all be drinking wheat water!
So, once again, Mom's way is proving best, but it is only now that I am finding out why.