Dr. Iichiroh Ohhira (1936-2016)
&
The History of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN


Dr. Iichiroh Ohhira

Iichiroh Ohhira was born in Osaka, Japan in 1936. Sadly, he passed away in 2016 at the age of 80 from complications following a routine surgery. When he was a young man, he became a Buddhist monk but after several years at the temple, he decided to attended Okayama University, and in 1973, he graduated with a Master’s Degree from the school of agriculture. After graduating, at the age of 37, Ohhira embarked on a career as a landscape architect.

Iichiroh Ohhira had a deep love of nature and he began to develop a reputation for his architectural designs that creatively incorporated and expressed the natural beauty of nature.

In 1976, Ohhira was invited to design a “Freedom Park” in the city of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The image below is a nighttime photo of the park just after its ceremonial opening. Ohhira’s design featured many water features and numerous meditation/sitting areas.

Freedom Park

In September 1981, Dr. Ohhira was invited back to Malaysia to attend the grand opening of the park. The photo below shows Ohhira receiving an award from the Sultan of Sabah, East Malaysia in recognition and appreciation for the park that he had designed.

Dr. Ohhira with Sultan of Sabah

While attending the park’s grand opening ceremonies, Ohhira ingested some tainted food and became extremely ill. A local shaman who was attending the grand opening ceremony observed Dr. Ohhira in distress and gave him a black paste-like substance to swallow. Ohhira was astounded when his nausea and vomiting quickly abated and he realized that whatever the shaman had given him had quickly “cured” him of his violent case of food poisoning.

Being curious, Ohhira took some samples of the “miracle paste” back to Japan. He had learned that the substance was created in a fermentation process with locally grown Malaysian fruits & vegetables. After studying the Malaysian product as an amateur scientist for several years, Ohhira realized that he didn’t have the knowledge to study this substance the way he wanted to. Consequently, in 1987, at the age of 49, he returned to Okayama University where he enrolled in graduate school as the while focusing his research into Lactic Acid Bacteria and fermentation. He graduated in 1990 with his Ph.D. in microbiology and this was the beginning of his remarkable second career.

It is fascinating how unique quirks of fate sometimes dramatically alter the course of one’s life. We are fortunate that:  Ohhira traveled from Japan to Malaysia for the opening ceremony…and got food poisoning, and that a local shaman happened to be nearby at that moment in time to administer a “miracle paste” that quickly “cured” him, and that Dr. Ohhira had a level of curiosity that caused him to abandon a successful career as a landscape architect and return to graduate school to obtain a Ph.D. in microbiology, which enabled him to eventually create and formulate what has become famously known throughout the world as Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®.

This historical perspective enables us to also understand how Dr. Ohhira got the idea of utilizing a fermentation process as the method of developing Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®.  He had learned that the black paste was created utilizing the centuries-old Japanese process of fermenting locally grown Malaysian foods.

Elie Metchnikoff is regarded as the “Father of Probiotics.” He was the first clinician to understand why fermented foods confer health benefits to those who consume them.  In the early 1900s, Metchnikoff made the landmark observation that the regular consumption of lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy products such as yogurt, was associated with the enhanced health and longevity in Bulgarians. Metchnikoff provided the scientific explanation for the health benefits of lactic acid-producing bacteria in his groundbreaking 1907 book titled The Prolongation of Life.  Today we realize that Lactic Acid is just one of many important health-regulating compounds that probiotic bacteria produce during the process of fermenting and digesting foods.

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics

Dr. Ohhira understood from Metchnikoff’s earlier work, that certain strains of bacteria produce lactic acid when foods undergo the process of fermentation. These strains of bacteria are known as Lactobacillus acidophilus or lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB). However, Dr. Ohhira had an important additional insight. He realized that different strains of bacteria would produce different metabolites, which in turn, would offer a wider range of health-promoting and health-regulating effects.  Hence, Dr. Ohhira selected 12 unique strains of probiotic bacteria to be the foundation of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics.

Dr. Ohhira’s Additional Insights:

Dr. Ohhira also intuitively understood that probiotic bacteria, like all other living organisms, will not thrive unless they receive optimal nutrition. Thus, Dr. Ohhira provided his 12 selected strains of probiotic bacteria with dozens of various types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, mushrooms and seaweeds. These nutritionally dense fiber-rich foods contain different kinds of fibers that nourish different strains of bacteria.

Dr. Ohhira understood that a diverse fiber-rich food supply would promote the growth of a broader, more diverse range of probiotic bacteria, which results in a more diverse microbiome. The images below show the fermentation vats and some of the healthy foods used in the multi-year fermentation process for the production of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®.

Good Bacteria + Good Food = A Healthy Microbiome

 

The Mozart Effect:

Dr. Ohhira also understood that all living things respond to the vibrational energy of sound and that certain sounds promote health. Since the beginning, Dr. Ohhira, the world-renowned microbiologist and former Buddhist monk, has been playing Mozart and other classical music during the fermentation process of his probiotic formulations to further enhance their vitality.

Postbiotic Metabolites:

In my estimation, Dr. Ohhira’s greatest scientific insight was his understanding of the importance of the compounds that probiotic bacteria produce. Dr. Ohhira referred to these compounds as the biogenic mass. Today we refer to these compounds collectively as postbiotic metabolites. These are the compounds that regulate so many functions that are critical to health such as such as digestion, absorption of nutrients, detoxification, the immune system, gut-brain communication, suppress inflammation, have antioxidant activity, are natural antibiotics that suppress the growth of pathogens and much much more.

In the book The Mind-Gut Connection, author Emeran Mayer, MD states that the bacteria in your intestinal tract transform the food you ingest into hundreds of thousands of metabolites.

Dr. Ohhira’s remarkable vision and insight enabled him to understand that benefits from probiotic bacteria are due to the postbiotic metabolites that they produce. Providing a highly diverse, fiber-rich food supply promotes the growth of different strains of bacteria, which results in a more diverse microbiome, and a healthier individual.

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics–A Fermented Food Product:

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® are produced utilizing a proprietary fermentation process. The end result is a fermented food product, which has been encapsulated for convenience of use. All fermented foods contain three components: food(s), bacteria and compounds the bacteria have produced during fermentation such as lactic acid, which we refer to as postbiotic metabolites. This is the Dr. Ohhira’s Difference; it is primarily a fermented food product that delivers a multitude of postbiotic metabolites in each dose.

Dysbiosis:

People with dysbiosis and other intestinal health problems want quick improvement. Providing postbiotic metabolites along with probiotic bacteria and prebiotic foods accomplishes rapid improvement in intestinal health compared with products that just deliver probiotic bacteria. Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics® deliver a Complete Microbiome System that accomplishes Rapid Microbiome Repair. This is The Dr. Ohhira’s Difference.