We are only just beginning to really understand the complex and powerful impact of probiotics for human health. There is also a lot of misinformation out there about probiotics, as well as complete ignorance/lack of education. So let’s try to better understand the role of probiotics and how to choose quality brands.
Benefits of Probiotic Bacteria:
• help us digest lactose – minimize or eliminate lactose intolerance
• digest proteins to free amino acids – aid in protein digestion
• balance intestinal pH or lower the colon pH
• improve or prevent irritable bowel syndrome
• stop diarrhea and treat diarrhea from antibiotics, as well as prevent infection by producing antibiotic and anti fungal substances.
• regulate peristalsis, increase and improve bowel transit time
• reduce intestinal inflammation and protect our intestinal walls
• protect gums & teeth
• manufacture vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 & K
• manufacture essential fatty acids and short chain fatty acids (about 5-10 percent of them)
• convert flavonoids to usable forms
• increase absorption of minerals
• microbes produce end stage enzymes
• prevent food poisoning
• prevent and alleviate eczema, asthma and allergies
• neutralize toxins, break down and prevent synthesis of bacterial toxins
• protect and modulate autoimmune diseases
• support healthy blood pressure levels
• trigger hormones – break down and rebuild
• promote optimal growth, healthy metabolism and weight
• break down bile acids
• normalize serum cholesterol and triglycerides
We have approximately 3-4 pounds of bacteria living inside each and every one of us.
After we are born, it is our responsibility to maintain our own inner ecology. Generally, microbes can bounce back on their own, but our composition will never be the same once we’ve encountered antibiotics, birth control, excess sugars etc. Just one or two courses can upset your inner eco-system for life. Anti-biotics destroy ALL forms of bacteria – they are indiscriminate. Yeasts and fungus can then dominate the inner environment. No antibiotic kills a yeast or fungus. So this can really compromise your intestines and immune function.
We must replenish the probiotics , or beneficial microorganisms in our bodies throughout life. Simply because we have many things that compete with or deplete the good bacteria inside us. Our colon has a pH that is slightly acidic – this helps the probiotics to multiply. Diet plays a major role in supporting healthy gut flora. Certain nutrients are required, such as riboflavin, niacin, pantothenate, pyridoxine and more. Candida cannot thrive if the colon pH is correct, slightly acid between 5.3 and 5.8. This acid pH is maintained as a result of the lactic acid secreted by the good gut flora (acidophilus). When acidophilus is predominate in the colon and a person’s nutrition is adequate candida will not be able to take hold in the system. There can only be disease where there is a medium.
It takes prebiotics, transient probiotics and native strains of probiotics to get a full spectrum supplemental approach. To do this with food, you’d want to be consuming prebiotic rich foods such as; green & black teas with phenols, fresh herbs and spices, legumes and beans (deeper colored), red wine (has the phenols, organic), dark chocolate or cacao (not processed), soluble fiber; friendly gut bugs thrive on it, collect toxins to be flushed out with the stool (no need for a supplement though – not insoluble fiber) & fruits, vegetables (especially garlic and onions). Then you want to get a variety of strains of transient (just passing through) probiotics through fermented foods such as; sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, milk kefir, natto, kombucha, water kefir and pickles (as well as other brine fermented vegetables). Lastly, you want to obtain some of the native soil based strains of probiotics and you can get those from healthy soil, air and water. Your best bet is to grow your own garden in rich soil and not worry about every speck of dirt getting rinsed off your produce. Also get your hands and feed into that healthy soil. Compost. Or, if you can’t garden join a CSA or buy from your local farmer’s market from farms that grow organically (I promise you there will be some dirt still clinging to your produce).
In case you are not able to ferment your own foods or grow a garden, and are perhaps experiencing moderate health issues, supplementation will be necessary. Supplementation will be imperative if you’ve gone through more than 1-2 rounds of antibiotics in your entire lifetime. Let’s touch on my suggestions for supplementation.
Supplementing with Probiotics
Look for probiotics that contain Lactobacillus acidophilus plus Bifidobacteria strains. There are many more, and there may be times when you want to use specific strains for a specific purpose. One example would be with chronic diarrhea – you could use Saccharomyces boulardii by itself to put out that ‘fire’ so to speak. Then make sure to add in a more broad spectrum probiotic supplementation approach. Look for refrigerated products- for the most part these will be the most viable. When having probiotics shipped they can retain their potency out of refrigeration for a couple days or even weeks. Freeze dried products are also a good option. There are SOME viable products out there that can be stored at room temperature.
Maintenance dose, for improved health or mild health conditions; anywhere from 3 billion per day up to 25 billion per day. Everyone will be different as to what their body needs specifically. For severe health conditions, 30 billion plus per day is a good start. After antibiotic treatment: 30-100 billion per day at least. Studies on people with ulcerative colitis have found dosages of more than 2 trillion per day to be of benefit. Start low and slow to allow your body to adjust. It is possible to experience gas, bloating, etc while you adjust the first few days to week. If your symptoms get worse – stop taking the probiotics -this is a die-off due to the pathogenic disease producing bacteria and fungus -they release chemicals as they are killed off that can really aggravate one’s symptoms. Stop and re-start with very small amounts to avoid the die off.
My personal recommendation after having worked with clients on introducing probiotics would be to start a high quality probiotic if you are working on improving your health conditions and slowly work up to a dose that starts to give your body the results it needs most. Hang out on that dose for a short time when you have the consistent results you need then back down slowly to a maintenance dose. This will look different for everyone.
Check out ConsumerLab.com to find studies done on certain probiotic supplements.
There are numerous probiotic supplements on the market, too numerous for me to review every single one to determine if they are good quality or not. Here are a few that I’ve worked with or have been recommended are good by others that I trust or by some research.
• Biotics Bio-Doph 7 Plus
• Biotics Saccharomyces Boulardii (great for traveler’s diarrhea and diarrhea in general, especially in those with IBS or Crohns disease)
• Bio-Kult – recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride for the GAPS protocol.
• Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion – has 10 different strains.
• BioTrust Pro-X 10 – contains 7 strains, is micro-encapsulated to survive stomach acid and reach the gut. (not necessarily a good thing if you need the bacteria in the stomach, but can have it’s benefits).
• Custom Probiotics– high quality probiotics with many different blends as well as individual strains (currently what my family is using as well as their yogurt starter 2). Spend some time on this site reading all the resources. Call in to talk more with Harry about what strains you should be taking.
• Florastore- made of live freeze dried yeast cells, saccharomyces boulardii. (also found in kombucha, and kefir, 1 to 1 ratio of bacteria and yeasts) these cells clear the body within 5-7 days. Transient form
• VSL #3– megadose transient based medical food probiotic, 450 billion per packet.
For severe health conditions. Please note it does contain cornstarch and maltose. Mix with cold water or food. Up to 8 packets per day can be take for severe health conditions. Capsules in lower doses are also available.
• Ultra Dophilus, Ultra Bifidus, Ultraflora Plus (with colostrum) from Metagenics. You can get these through physicians only.
Brands of Soil Based Organisms
BioKult – mostly transient, but it does have bacillus in it. This is a safe slow detox approach.
Prescript Assist – 100% native, prebiotic & probiotic (only one out there like this)
Start on half a capsule, wait 3 days to see if there is a reaction. Then add 1, then 2 and so on. In a base of carbon which is a bowel detoxifier. Humic and fulvic acids as well (prebiotics). Best option we know of on the market.
Theralac – gel that protects the bacteria as they pass through the acid stomach into the intestines at full strength. (good maintenance) Has transient and native microbes in it, 20 billion colony forming units at the time of consumption. Good for mild or moderate health condition dose. Decent option.
Why take probiotics in the first place?
• antibiotics in food and water
• birth control pill (substances in pill that change the pH of the gut) This interupts our feedback loop. Digestion is a system of hormone messages that can be disrupted by taking exogenous hormones.
• hormones- same as above
• pharmaceutical drugs
• too much sugar (changes body pH)
• chlorine in water, bacteria/toxins in water
• BPA from cans/plastic – probiotics bind with them in the gut to help remove from the body
It’s a good idea to keep your gut guessing by taking a variety of probiotics and strains. Rotate through different brands/strains of probiotics to constantly introduce different strains to the immune system. Use foods first and supplements additionally. A good probiotic should have as many different strains/species of beneficial bacteria as possible. The human gut contains hundreds of known species of probiotic bacteria that have different strengths and weaknesses. If we have a mixture of them then we have a better chance of deriving maximum benefit.
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Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.
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