Probiotics refers to friendly bacteria which contribute to the health of the intestinal tract.
Positive Health Affects.
A selection of the positive health affects of probiotics can be summarised as:
- They manufacture B-vitamins, such as biotin, niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6) and folic acid.
- They act as anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) factors, with powerful anti-tumour potentials.
- They act as 'watchdogs' by keeping an eye on, and effectively controlling, the spread of undesirable micro-organisms (by altering the acidity of the region they inhabit and/or producing specific antibiotic substances, as well as by depriving rival unfriendly bacteria of their nutrients). The antibiotics some of the friendly bacteria produce are effective against many harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi. Not the least of the potentially harmful yeasts controlled by some lactobacilli is "Candida albicans," now implicated in many health problems in people who are malnourished or whose immune systems are depleted.
- They effectively help to control high cholesterol levels, thereby affording us protection from the cardiovascular damage which excessive levels of this nevertheless important substance can create.
- They play a role in protecting against the negative effects of radiation and toxic pollutants, enhancing immune function.
- They help considerably to enhance bowel function. Where bowel bacteria are absent, the function of peristalsis is impaired, and the amount of time it take for food to pass completely through the system is much increased.
- 60 percent of the circulating female hormones such as estrogen are excreted into the GI tract in the bile. The hormones are then, in normal conditions, acted upon - a process known as deconjugation - by bacterial enzymes such as sulphatase catalyse before most of it (some is excreted in the faeces) is re-absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it is sent back to the liver for reactivation into a biologically active form.
Probiotics can be negatively affected by the following:
- Unhealthy diet, especially a diet that leads to regular indigestion.
- Poor digestion of food from various causes and/or poor elimination of wastes.
- Antibiotics can kill a significant percentage of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. The amount killed is largely dependant upon whether they are narrow-spectrum or wide- sprectrum antibiotics and how long they are used for. If you are forced to use antibiotics, use narrow-spectrum antibiotics for as short a time as possible and subsequently take probiotic suppliments.
- Chlorinated water used on a regular basis can kill beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
- Stress, especially on-going stress negatively affects beneficial bacteria.
- Other pharmaceuticals such as steroids and NSAIDS (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs) can have a negative affect on the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
- Radiation (i.e., x-rays)
Negative Health Affects From Loss of Probiotics:
- Lack of reciculation of female hormones such as estrogen.
- Overgrowth of detrimental, disease-causing bacteria and yeasts such as Clostridium dificile, Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, etc.
- Production of endotoxins in the GI Tract contributing to lupus erythematosus, psoriasis and other skin conditions, and pancreatitis (to mention just a few).
- Allows partially digested proteins to enter the bloodstream contributing to eczema, nervous system disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and a variety of immune system disorders.
- GI tract problems such as leaky bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, IBS, etc. are contributed to by loss of probiotics and appearance of detrimental bacteria.
- Specific strains of detrimental bacteria may cause health problems. For example, E. coli may lead to problems with insulin and blood sugar function. Yersinia enterocolitica produces substances which cause the over-production of thyroid hormone. This detrimental bacteria can also contribute to autoimmune diseases.
Choosing a High Quality Probiotics Supplement:
It is extremely important to choose carefully when selecting a probiotics supplement. Most of the supplements of the market run anywhere from worthless to slightly useful. Spending the extra time looking for the right product and spending a little extra money purchasing the right product will pay off in the long run. You may be fooling yourself if you rely on the "conscientiousness" of your favourite natural food store or manufacturer to choose a good probiotic products for you.
Below are a few things to look for or to avoid in a probiotics supplement:
Number of Organisms:
The product should say on the label a guarantee of the number of viable organisms in the product. It should be at least 1 billion organisms per gram for a therapeutic dosage. The label should ideally give a guarantee of the number of viable organisms at the expiration date since it will be less than the manufacture date. Manufacturers should have an independent lab analyse their product for potency on a regular basis. They should be able to send you a copy of the lab results upon request.
Type of Organisms:
i. Single-strain products are strongly prefered because in multiple-strain products, one strain can begin to dominate during storage leaving little viable L. acidophilus or B. bifidum. It is better to take two or three single-strain products than one multi-strain product (which may have little viable organisms in it at consumption time). For example, strains of L. acidophilus and L. bulgaricus should not be put together as the L. bulgaricus would take over. Some double-strain products with both L. acidophilus and B. bifidum such as those made by Natren (see below) are okay to use.
ii. The most important types of bacteria to take therapeutically are: - L. acidophillus - B. bifidum - L. bulgaricus - S. thermophilus L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus are very useful for encouraging the growth of B. bifidum in the intestines. There are a few others that would be very helpful such as some of the strains found in products like miso, but you may find it hard to find such strains on the market.
iii. The strain of the type of bacteria is extremely important. The strain must be able to: - survive the stomach digestive acids and the bile acids. - attach itself to the intestinal wall. - accepted by the immune system. - produce substances such as natural antibiotics that help destroy significant numbers of pathenogenic organisms. INT 9, DDS-1, and NAS strains of L. acidophilus are all good strains to use. The Malyoth strain of B. Bifidum is an example of good strain. The LB-51 strain of L. bulgaricus is an example of good strain. Many labels do not list the strains of the bacteria. You may have to check with the manufacturer.
Type of Processing:
It is very important that the product has not have been processed using centrifuging.
Centrifuging has the following detrimental effects on a probiotics product:
1. Damages colonies. The g-forces produced by centrifuging damages the acidophilus colonies causing growth after implantation to be poor. A healthy acidophilus colony may have 20 organisms which tends to have a much greater ability to implant and grow. Centrifuging breaks these colonies in much smaller bits. This raises the apparent number of viable organisms, but the implantation and growth of these organisms in the human body will be reduced tremendously
2. Damages Cell Centrifuging damages the cell walls of the bacteria reducing its viability.
3. Supernatant Lost. The Supernatant is the growth medium of the probiotics culture. During the culturing process, the bacteria secretes or synthesizes chemicals which are very powerful for inhibiting pathenogenic bacteria and fungus (e.g., lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic-like substances -- acidophilin, for example). The Supernatant also protects the probiotic bacteria from stomach acids and provides food for the bacteria to help them flourish once they reach their destination in the intestines. Centrifuging removes the Supernatant from the bacteria.
If the product does not say on the label that it is uncentrifuged, you need to get a guarantee from the manufacturer that this is the case. Since most companies do not manufacture their own probiotic supplements (they just put their label on the bottle), you may have to do a little detective work to track down the manufacturer. Some products that are not centrifuged are ultra-filtrated. Ultra-filtration does not damage the product as much as centrifuging, but it does remove the Supernatant from the bacteria. Finally, some manufacturers add chemicals and/or hormones to stimulate the growth of the bacteria. Since they are processing agents, they do not have to be listed on the label. Please check with the manufacturer to be certain that they do not add these chemicals to their product.
Base of Product:
A milk base is an ideal base for the organisms in a probiotics supplement. Since this is such a small part of the diet, it is okay to use a milk base if you do not have a negative reaction from the product. If a milk base is used it is preferable that the product contain the DDS-1 strain of L. acidophilus which produces plenty of lactose to help digestion of the dairy. It is preferable to find a quality product that has a dairy-free base. It is also preferable that a non-dairy base be one that provides an adequate diet for the acidophilus so that they remain viable. A rice base is one example.
Ideally the product should be in powdered form. If you use powdered form, it is crucial that you keep the jar sealed and in the refrigerator when not in use and that you only touch the powder with a clean spoon so as not to damage the product. The second best choice is encapsulated powder. The number of viable organisms go down quicker when encapsulated, especially if the encapsulation process is not done correctly. Avoid liquid products - despite the TV adverts....
Using a High Quality Probiotics Supplement:
Therapeutic dosage should be taken when starting your healing program, after a cleanse or enema/colonic or after a chemical exposure. You can stay on therapeutic dosage for up to ten days unless directed overwise by your healthcare professional. Then gradually work your way down to maintenance dosage. You may find that the therapeutic dosage of probiotics suggested below is expensive if you use a quality product. Please bear in mind that the therapeutic dosage is temporary and that it is still much cheaper than most prescriptions. L. acidophilus -- 5 to 10 grams (2.5 to 5 level teaspoonsful) of powder total per day. These should be divided evenly and taken half way between meals. B. bifidum -- 5 to 10 grams (2.5 to 5 level teaspoonsful) of powder total per day. These should be divided evenly and taken half way between meals. L. bulgaricus (if taken) -- 3 to 6 grams (1.5 to 3 teaspoonsful) taken with each meal (3 times daily).
Maintenance Dosage. You can stay on the maintenance dosage indefinately, but try gradually working away from regular use of probiotic supplements and replacing them with the use of fermented foods and other foods naturally building the health of the bacteria in your intestines. Of course, you should only do this when you have healed enough to slowly add small, regular amount of fermented foods to your diet (e.g., miso). L. acidophilus -- 1 gram (0.5 level teaspoonsful) of powder total per day. These should be divided evenly and taken half way between meals. B. bifidum -- 4 grams (2 level teaspoonsful) of powder total per day. These should be divided evenly and taken half way between meals. L. bulgaricus (if taken) -- 1 gram (0.5 teaspoonsful) taken with each meal (3 times daily). The ratio of B. bifidum to L. acidophilus should be approximately 4:1 If you eat more meat, take a higher proportion of L. acidophilus.
Method of Administration The probiotics supplements should be taken with spring water only (except in the case of L. bulgaricus which is taken with or after meals as described passim). Do not take with juice or broth as this can stimulate more stomach acids to be released leading to fewer bacteria surviving in the stomach.
Pickles (pickled cucumbers) and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) are common forms of fermented foods. In some stores, you may find other pickled vegetables. Please try to purchase these products at a natural foods store and check the labels for sugar, additives or other unhealthy ingredients--otherwise they may be worthless as a probiotics supplements. The products that say "low-salt" are preferable. Please do not eat large amount of these products .
What To Expect: During the first few days of supplementation, and possibly through the entire ten days of therapeutic dosing, you may experience cleansing symptoms. This is due to the dying off of yeast overgrowth (especially if you are taking products to combat yeast -- garlic, caprylic acid, Pau d'Arco, etc.) and dying off of detrimental bacteria. Symptoms such as wind, bloating, IBS, diarrhoea are not uncommon. Be certain to consume warming, healthy foods and beverages when possible.
Other Ways to Get and Increase Probiotics:
As you heal your condition, it is desirable to eventually add fermented products to the diet (when they do not cause adverse reactions) and gradually reduce and eliminate the regular use of probiotic suppliment products. If you are not sensitive to eating fermented foods, it is a good idea to eat a little bit regularly. Light miso soup/broth once per day is a good way to start. Eating fermented foods is the normal way human beings can get and increase their beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Some of the more common fermented foods include:
Miso is a fermented product made from soybeans, various grains, koji (a starter), and sea salt. The koji is added to the mixture to break down the beans and grains into easily digestible amino acids, fatty acids, and simple sugars. The strains of bacteria found in miso are ideal for persons eating a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet. In addition, miso is believed to help neutralize environmental pollution, alkalinise the blood and block the effects of carcinogens. It must be naturally aged, organic and unpasturised.
Yoghurt is a fermented dairy product made traditionally from milk (unpasturised, unhomogenised) and a starter which contains the bacteria S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus. If you do decide to eat small amount of yoghurt, please bear the following in mind: - Avoid products that have been pasturised. - Avoid products with fruit in them. - Some commercial brands do not even contain beneficial bacteria. - Purchase yoghurt only at a natural food store. - It is better, by far, to make your own yoghurt. Do not use L. acidophilus as a starter or any other bacteria meant for supplementation. Use a culture-mix, preferably with a ratio of seven parts S. thermophilus to one part L. bulgaricus
Kefir is a very healthy fermented dairy product traditionally made from goat, sheep, or cows milk (unpasturised, unhomogenised) and a culture containing the bacteria, Saccaromyces kefir, Torula kefir, Lactobacillus brevis, Streptococcus lactic and others. The yeasts in the culture lead to a slight alcohol content (approximately 3 percent. May be bought in the UK from the growing number of East European and (mainly) Russian food shops.
There are substances which have a much more indirect method of increasing the number of friendly bacteria in the intestines including:
Inulin is a fiber-like substance found in vegetables such as dandelion and Jerusalem artichokes which is food for bifidobacteria. Some authors recommend eating Jerusalem artichokes when taking probiotic suppliments to increase the bifidobacteria in the intestines. Unfortunately, some people find that they have gas when eating Jerusalme artichokes. If that is the case with you, I would try something else.
Fructooligosaccharides are a fiber-like substance which feeds the bifidobacteria in the intestines. FOS can be useful for persons who are on a Candida Reduction Program as it is 1/2 as sweet as sugar and is much healthier than artificial sweetners.
Microalgae such as spirulina, chorella, blue-green algae, etc. have been show to to increase the population of Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the intestines