THE IMPORTANCE OF PROBIOTICS
Before the 20th Century and the advent of Allopathic medicine (Treatment of disease with drugs having opposite effects to the symptoms), when one got seriously sick they were sent to a sanitarium where the first order of treatment was a colonic and measures to balance the intestinal tract.
The intestines are the engine of the body where all the processes of food digestion take place, the sorting out of nutrients the body needs and the balance of hydration. And what drives this process is the presence of “good” bacteria.
When the balances and function of this organ are not working right things can go wrong all over the body. We need the bacteria to survive. If it does not break down the foods in the right way then nutrition does not get to the body and health breaks down in many different ways.
My own health crises began long ago as a child from a glandular infection. It was so serious that the doctors threw a barrage of antibiotics into me for an extended period of time, probably too much by standards today. My internal flora was destroyed in the process and I experienced difficulties with food after that, yet not knowing why. Fatigue was common, vague mental bouts, listlessness at times and it was attributed to bad attitude. It took many many years for me to finally understand it was the out-of-balance gut that caused most of my problems.
I developed a fleshy padding around my mid section that no amount of activity could get rid of. I was very active and athletic but was just told it was my body type. All the while consuming a diet of grains and dairy on a daily basis that packed my internal organs with excess fat. Couple that with sugar and processed foods of all types, breakfast of dead white pastries and fried eggs. Who knew what a lethal weapon the Standard American Diet actually was?
Years later when I broke my back twice, a story recounted in a previous post about the Osteopenia I developed due to not metabolizing the food I was eating, I began to learn of the many ways a malfunctioning colon can result in harm to our health.
The intestinal microbiome, which is the community of trillions of microorganisms within the human gut that determine our state of health and illness, was designed over millennia to meet the assaults on the system it regulated. However, the new threats to this balanced system in the form of preservatives and other food additives, and especially antibiotics that wreak havoc on both populations of unhealthy and well as healthy forms of digestive bacteria, has led to an epidemic of digestive ills. This disruption and imbalance is called dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is an imbalanced state that has a wide range of negative effects such as contributing to sleep disorders, mental fogginess and a sense of ill-ease and confusion. The stomach becomes distressed as well with issues such as ulcers and acidic imbalances.
To shift the body away from a state of dysbiosis to a balanced healthy intestinal microbiome, the introduction of favorable bacteria known as probiotics has proved effective. Many different combinations of healthy digestive bacteria have been experimented with, as well as forms of delivery to the intesintes owing to the challenge of delivering the bacteria past the acids present in the stomach. Most probiotics now are in capsule form which has proven effective in getting past the acidic environment of the stomach.
Probiotics are an additive therapy that increase the organisms that rebalance an ailing microbiome. However, getting them past the stomach and into the intestines is no guarantee they will overcome and eventually outnumber the presence of the unhealthy bacteria, microbes and parasites.
A recent approach to this problem from Life Extension is the development of a phage therapy that targets the unhealthy organisms for destruction. Phage Therapy was discovered in Pre-World War I in Eastern Europe. More about phage therapy and the probiotic product Life Extension has introduced can be further explored at the link below to their product known as FlorAssist GI.
Tests found that FlorAssist GI decreased the presence of e-coli bacteria (harmful) and enhanced the growth of the following good bacteria found in the blend of 15 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) in each capsule.
• Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-14
• Bifidobacterium lactis BL-04
• Lactobacillus paracasei LPC-37
• Lactobacillus rhamnosus LR-32
• Bifidobacterium bifidum/lactis BB-02
• Bifidobacterium longum BL-05
Phage Therapy had great promise in controlling the expansion of bacterial illnesses. Unfortunately, the discovery and apparent success of antibiotics brought phage therapy research to a halt. However, with the evolution of super strains of bacteria now that resist antibiotic treatment there is a resurgence in other approaches such as phage therapy. You can read more about Phage Therapy and its use in FlorAssist GI from Life Extension in their January 2017 issue.
Most probiotics that I looked at contained the first two strains listed above and I found the top four were the most resilient and likely to survive and populate the gut. Some ingredient lists contained as many as twenty but it was reported that many of those simply do not survive to have any lasting effect in bringing balance to an affected digestive system.
It is generally accepted that the probiotic you choose should contain the four most resilient strains with a population of at lease 5 billion CFU, and of course make mention of a protective method to insure the bulk of the pill or capsule (or powder form) makes it past the stomach and into the intestines where they can populate and do their job.
My preferred product is from IBS Treatment center. Their product “Full Spectrum Probiotic” advertises 25 Billion CFU. They have related products that enhance the effectiveness of your efforts to restore health to the gut.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics are basically live bacteria that are continually growing and replenishing inside of our intestines. Don’t let it be unsettling to think all those bacterial things are thriving inside your body. For one, they have always been there and two, we could not process the foods we eat without them. It is a good thing that they are there as they have been shown to be absolutely required for healthy digestion, for nutrient absorption and they even have an effect on mood balance.
After entering the body they feed on Prebiotics (food for probiotics, usually fiber) and populate the microbiome. They find a home in the gut where they happily attach to the walls of the intestines and go about establishing a colony that works in unison breaking down foods that supply our bodies with nutrition. Studies have shown that this process when functioning in balance may boost the immune system and strengthen respiratory health.
Good Sources of Prebiotics: acacia gum, dandelion greens, garlic, asparagus, beans, oats, and chicory root.
The presence and balanced process of this colony of digestive bacteria could even aid in mental health. A sense of well being is evident when an organism is properly fed and a healthy digestive system is at work. Recent studies have even shown that decreased levels of gut bacteria could be connected to mental/emotional imbalances such as depression or possibly even autism. Studies have shown that autistic children improve when given probiotics that counteract the unhealthy bacteria.
Natural Sources of Probiotics
You are probably wondering, as did I, aren’t there any natural or Food sources for probiotics? Does it have to come in the form of a pill, capsule and lab engineered powder? Obviously probiotics existed before labs began designing and producing them so where are they to be found?
Yogurt: First off, realize the fruit sweetened yogurt commonly bought in the super market is not going to contain much probiotic benefit. In fact, you should avoid any products that contain hight fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Buy only, or better yet, make your own live-cultured yogurt.
Kefir: Somewhat similar to yogurt. It is a fermented dairy product made from dairy milk and fermented kefir grains (rubbery bits that are actually masses of live probiotic bacteria that are responsible for creating more of the healthy gut bacteria we want. Kefir starter cultures are available for making your own at home). Goat’s milk is also commonly used or if you do not want to consume dairy, you can also make kefir from coconut milk.
Tempeh: This is a fermented soybean product rich in probiotics and also contains high levels of vitamin B12, which makes it a healthy substitute for meat or tofu.
Sauerkraut: Is simply chopped cabbage that has been pickled in brine. Easy to make at home or inexpensive on the store shelves. This is my personal favorite as a go-to natural food probiotic. Other vegetables can be pickled and used in the same way.
Miso: A paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt. Most commonly known as a Japanese soup, often added with tofu or vegetables.