GET HEALTHY…With Probiotics
What Are Probiotics?
How Do They —
Keep your digestion working for you?
Protect your body from bad bacteria and viruses?
Heal your intestines from damage by antibiotics?
Enhance your immune system?
Find Out Why Probiotics Safeguard Your Health. Look Inside….
Probiotics/Beneficial Intestinal Bacteria
Early Russian Nobelist Elié Metchnikoff (1845-1916) is credited for recognizing the health benefits of probiotics. He noted that people in the Caspian Mountains lived extraordinarily long, healthy lives. Their one distinguishing behavior was the daily intake of a cultured goat milk drink called kefir.
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that live in our intestines. Coming from the Greek, meaning “for life”, the term probiotic was likely coined as a witty response to the word antibiotic.
The therapeutic use of probiotics began when the benefits of “probiotic therapy” after a course of antibiotic therapy was recognized. Many people mistakenly believe this is the only use of probiotic supplements. Probiotics have many functions in our bodies.
It is now recognized that for optimal health, it is a good idea to take probiotics as a regular addition to our daily supplement program, right along with the other matrix supplements recommended by your editor Siri Khalsa.1
Since probiotics are essential to the effective use of the nutrients we eat, it follows that they are also essential to our overall health and digestive wellness.
Living primarily in the small intestine (referred to as “the gut”), probiotics 1) assist in the digestive process; 2) help to alleviate gastric disorders; 3) eliminate bad breath; 4) prevent yeast infections; 5) lower blood cholesterol; 6) produce some B vitamins and vitamin K; and 7) stimulate the immune system.
1 Over time, supplement research and general lifestyle changes (more stress for many) have added to my matrix supplement recommendations.
Currently, these are: an MVM (multivitamin-mineral formula) accompanied by additional vitamins C (up to 3 grams); D (2000 IU plus), E (400-600 IU, with mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols), K2 (45-90 mcg); the minerals calcium (based on your own basic calcium intake), magnesium (ditto), and strontium (500 mg); Fish oils (1-3 grams DHA/EPA); an adaptogen (such ashwagandha [Withania somnifera], follow label instructions).
“Target” supplements are those taken for specific conditions, e.g. turmeric/curcumins for inflammation.
Surprisingly, the mass of microorganisms in our intestines can weigh up to 4 pounds – the size of the human liver! In a way, this mass functions like an organ. It is made up of 400-500 different species of microorganisms, each of which has many types of strains. Although this number may seem very large, only 20 types of microorganisms make up about 75 percent of the total.
Another surprise, throughout the digestive system, their numbers can be as high as 100 trillion. In fact, probiotics outnumber the cells of the human body by as much as 100 to one!!!
This large population is made up of both healthful and harmful species. By weight, there are actually more bad guys. However, among the many functions of desirable microflora is the job of keeping the undesirables in line.
As beneficial bacteria thrive, they help discourage unwanted bacteria and fungi from proliferating out of control.
This is important because the proper bacterial balance of the intestines determines whether there is a suitable environment for the wall of the colon or one that constantly irritates it. In turn, this determines how well we absorb our food or whether we develop “leaky gut”. (See What Is Leaky Gut?.)
Looking more closely, we find that intestinal bacteria are not static. They are highly active and constantly in a state of flux.
The following factors favor the growth of harmful bacteria: stress, the unchecked consumption of refined or processed foods, excessive alcohol, birth control pills, some food additives, some cortisone-type drugs, radiation and/or radiation therapy, fluoridated and/or chlorinated water, exposure to toxic metals, pollutants, and, of course, antibiotic therapy.
When the bad guys outnumber the good guys, ill health and accelerated aging are the result.
The overgrowth of potentially dangerous microbes, is a condition called dysbiosis. A prime example of dysbiosis is a Candida albicans infection.
In this situation, there have not been enough beneficial bacteria to hold the C. albicans in check. Results can range from a simple vaginal yeast infection to a variety of complaints. Beginning with gastro-intestinal and genitourinary tract problems, these can extend to include allergic reactions, mental-emotional symptoms, and glandular and organ involvement.
“What Is Leaky Gut?”
Leaky gut” or “leaky gut syndrome” is an even more serious problem that can develop as a result of dysbiosis.
Leaky gut indicates abnormal or increased permeability of the intestinal lining. A healthy intestinal lining allows only the nutrients from properly digested fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to pass through for transport to the cells.
Simultaneously, the lining acts as a barrier to keep out larger particles, including disease causing bacteria, toxic molecules, undigested food particles, and other foreign substances.
When irritated or inflamed, the lining becomes damaged. The result is increased permeability. This allows harmful substances to pass directly through the weakened cell membranes.
With time, this becomes leaky gut syndrome, a condition causing a large number of symptoms and illnesses. As knowledge about the connection between digestive function and the immune system deepens, the list of health conditions associated with leaky gut grows.
Common Conditions Associated With Leaky Gut:
Acne and other skin problems
Breast enlargement in men
Chronic bad breath
Chronic bladder infections
Chronic vaginal infection
High cholesterol levels
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Vitamin B deficiency
Maintaining Digestive Health
High quality probiotic supplements can bring the bowels back into balance and keep them there. This can offset the disturbing effects that dietary, environmental, and emotional stresses can create in the digestive tract.
The two most common types of probiotic supplements are Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium (as B. bifidum and B. longum). Both kinds can be found throughout the digestive tract, and both produce acid substances such as lactic acid.
The acids produced by the probiotics help maintain the correct intestinal pH and inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.
The key to the effectiveness of probiotics as intestinal monitors is their amazing capacity to secrete numerous substances that kill pathogenic bacteria.
Acidophilus, with its many strains, is the most widely known probiotic.
Scientific research has demonstrated that this probiotic plays an especially beneficial role in the digestive process, producing enzymes that ensure the availability of nutrients.
Its production of lactic acid enhances the utilization of essential minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, etc.) and suppresses detrimental bacteria such as Salmonella (food poisoning), Shigella (diarrhea), and E. coli (intestinal disease and kidney failure).
Acidophilus has also been reported to produce sufficient hydrogen peroxide to inhibit the growth of candida.
In addition, acidophilus reportedly alleviates lactose intolerance, inhibits carcinogenic activity in the bowels, and improves the amount of nutrition we receive from our food.
On the other hand, the lesser known bifidobacteria are the predominant organisms.
Many people who do not respond to acidophilus react positively to bifidus. This bacteria first implants in infancy and is found in humans throughout life.
Bifidus shares many of the benefits of acidophilus, including the production of lactic acid. However, bifidobacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
These important acids have a wide range of antimicrobial activity against yeasts and molds as well as against unhealthy bacteria.
Additionally, SCFAs increase blood flow in the colon, stimulate pancreatic enzyme secretion, promote sodium and water absorption, and support the growth of intestinal mucosal cells.
Studies have shown that colonic absorption of SCFAs may supply up to 10 percent of our daily energy requirement.
Bifidus delivers even further benefits. One unique job is inhibiting the growth of bacteria that can alter nitrates in the intestine into potentially carcinogenic nitrites.
It also provides a healthy environment for the synthesis of some B vitamins and vitamin K. Bifidus microorganisms destroy the pathogens that cause vaginal yeast infections.2
In addition, bifidus is known to improve bowel function by aiding movement (peristalsis) and producing a softer, smoother stool. Further, bifidus has proven useful in the treatment of cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.
Since bifidus competes with pathogenic bacteria and yeasts for both nutrients and attachment sites, it is especially important to support your intestines with supplementation.
Besides the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, other beneficial bacteria include L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. salivarius, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, B. breve, Enterococcus faecium, Saccharomyces boulardii, and L. sporogenes.
The latter is a unique strain of lactobacillus which occurs as spores. This means it resists the actions of stomach acid and antibiotics. Sporogenes is non-dairy and is derived from malt.
2 This condition can be corrected by douching with a solution of water and bifidus (or capsules can be inserted directly into the vagina).
Intestinal gas is a function of a healthy digestive system. We actually pass gas an average of ten to fifteen times per day. However, excessive amounts can be a sign that something is out of balance.
Insufficient levels of hydrochloric acid, of pancreatic enzymes, and of intestinal flora can all contribute to the problem. Food sensitivities, especially to wheat and grains, can also cause excess flatulence.
Here are some healing options:
• Eat slowly and chew your food well.
• Supplement with both probiotics and digestive enzymes. Many people find this really helps prevent gas. Take digestive enzymes (either vegetable or pancreatic) with meals and probiotics, on an empty stomach a.m. and p.m.
• Consume a diet high in fiber to train your system. Increase fiber intake slowly or you’ll increase your gas exponentially. High fiber foods include whole grains, beans, and many fruits and vegetables. (See what I mean?)
• Identify lactose intolerance. Difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk, can be a cause of gas. Try eliminating dairy products for a couple of weeks and see if there is an improvement.
• Stay away from genetically modified (GMO) foods. Intestinal problems have increased exponentially since the introduction of these foods into the marketplace. Be sure all animal based foods are organic.
• Other food sensitivities: sugars and grains are likely culprits. Keep a food diary to identify correlations between certain foods and resulting gas.
• Chlorophyll liquid or tablets can help prevent gas. Take two to three times daily with meals.
• Ginger, fennel and anise are spices known to help alleviate gas. They can be purchased as capsules, taken as tea, and/or used in foods.
• While determining the cause of the problem, charcoal is a sure-fire means to eliminate unpleasant odor.
How To Buy Probiotics
When purchasing probiotics, you want to be sure that the product you purchase is pure and viable. This ensures that the microbes you want survive and implant in the gut. To guard your interests, the NPA (Natural Products Association) has set labeling standards for the distributors of probiotics. To meet the requirements, the following information must be given on the label:
• the quantity and identity of living microorganisms present
• a suggested final date for use (a “better used before” date)
• a statement of storage requirements
• a listing of additional ingredients
In particular, microorganisms included in any probiotic product must be identified to the genus and species level, such as L.acidophilus. Terms such as “lactic acid bacteria” or “lactobacillus species” cannot be used. In order to obtain a therapeutic effect, the number of viable colony-forming bacteria needs to be in the billions per gram.This allows for some loss in their passage to the intestines.
At the natural products store, you have some choices. There are both dairy and non-dairy forms of probiotics. In general, dairy forms are highly viable (they have lots of live critters) and need to be refrigerated. Vegetarian forms protect the allergic, work well against Candida, and do not need to be refrigerated. These products are stable enough to stand at room temperature for weeks, although viability declines rapidly at 120o F. You can refrigerate any of them, but don’t freeze.
Inevitably, some will ask, “Why not just eat a cup of yogurt?” It is not the purpose of Nutrition News to discourage this practice. However, L. bulgaricus (the major yogurt culture) does not colonize in the intestines. In addition, acidophilus may not be present in sufficient amounts to make a permanent difference.3
Furthermore, the important bifidus is seldom found in cultured foods. Also, be sure the yogurt you buy states that it contains live cultures.
Incidentally, sweetened and artificially flavored yogurt is worse than useless since the sugar it contains actually feeds unwanted bacteria.
Because probiotic supplements are concentrated, a tablet or capsule contains a much higher count than any food product.
Also, high fiber foods, vitamin C, lactose (milk sugar), and FOS (fructooligosaccharides) all encourage the growth of intestinal flora.4
While an entire year may be necessary to change intestinal bacteria content using diet alone, several months course of supplementation is satisfactory to gain sufficient bowel implantation. To maintain your gains, continue with regular supplementation.
How To Buy Probiotics
3 As noted above, “In order to obtain a therapeutic effect, the number of viable colony-forming bacteria needs to be in the billions per gram.”
4 FOS is a simple, naturally occurring carbohydrate found in several foods including bananas, garlic and beer.
It can be purchased as a stand-alone product. FOS promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract.
The Superman Probiotic
As discussed, a positive probiotic balance is most easily achieved by taking oral probiotic supplements regularly. To date, there are several producers of excellent probiotic strains in the US. In addition, a powerful, award winning probiotic product has been developed in Japan.
The product is guaranteed to restore probiotic harmony in the gastrointestinal tract. A non-dairy probiotic, it contains 12 strains of lactic acid bacteria, plus vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Altogether the ingredients include 92 types of healing plants combined and fermented for several years.
The mastermind behind this essential formula is Dr. Iichiroh Ohhira, microbiologist, professor, and research scientist. Dr. O became interested in the healing potential of probiotics when he learned that some pathogens had become resistant to every form of antibiotics.
Further exploration led to the development of TH 10, a new strain capable of combating the most potent antibiotic resistant bacteria. This wonderful discovery was developed from the bacterial strain used to ferment tempeh, the whole bean soy food.
TH 10 is 6.25 times stronger than any naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria.
Importantly, TH 10 flourishes and coexists compatibly with the healthy flora normally found in the GI tract.
This product supports the healing of many of the digestive conditions discussed in this Nutrition News, and it is available at your local natural products store.
• Challa, S. (2012). Probiotics For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
• Huffnagle, GB & Wernick, S (2008). The Probiotics Revolution: The Definitive Guide to Safe, Natural Health Solutions Using Probiotic and Prebiotics. Bantam-Dell.
• Khalsa, SD (2006). Nutrition News, Probiotics-For Your Life.
• Lipski, E. (2011). Digestive Wellness, Strengthen the Immune
System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion,
4th Edition. McGraw-Hill.