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Bugs that heal- or- What you should know about probiotics

 

Current research on probiotics shows that these friendly bacteria can help to prevent and treat a wide variety of conditions, many of which are outside the digestive tract.

The word “probiotic” means the “promotion of life”.

The World Health Organization defines a probiotic as any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested.

Probiotics are typically measured in Colony Forming Units (CFUs)

CFUs is a microbiological term that describes the density of viable bacteria in a product, I.e. how rich in probiotics a food is and how much will be available to your body.

Some health benefits of probiotics:

Digestive Health

Our digestive tracts are home to more than 1,000 different types of bacteria, which help us to break down food and absorb nutrients.

When we take antibiotics for infections, these drugs can also kill the healthy intestinal flora.

About 30 percent of the patients who take antibiotics report suffering from diarrhea or some other form of gastrointestinal distress. As a result, doctors commonly prescribe taking probiotics to “repopulate” the digestive tract with healthful bacteria.

Probiotics, such as Bifidobacterium infantis can also help with other types of digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

By consuming more pre and probiotics, the good bacteria help “crowd out” bad bacteria. That’s because the intestine is lined with adherence sites where bacteria latch on. If the sites are occupied by good microbes, there’s no place for a harmful bacterium to latch on.

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1151505

Urinary Health

There’s emerging evidence that regular consumption of probiotics can help prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract by maintaining a population of healthy bacteria on the tract’s adherence sites.

Infections of the urinary tract are extremely common, especially in women. Most infections disappear with antibiotics, but about 30 to 40 percent might return.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16827601

Allergies

Some studies have found a relationship between women taking probiotics during pregnancy and a 30 percent reduction in the instance of childhood eczema in their infants.

Researchers also looked at women who had a history of seasonal allergies. The infants who received probiotics in-vitro also had 50 percent higher levels of tissue inflammation, which is thought to trigger the immune system and reduce allergy incidence.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/728369

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/

Women’s Health

The microflora in the vagina relies on a delicate balance of bacteria. When that balance is off, it can result in one of two very common, uncomfortable infections: bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

Some studies have found that L. acidophilius can help prevent an infection, manage an already active one, or support antibiotics as a treatment, when  taken as suppositories.

Probiotics may also have a special role in maternal health, as pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vaginal infections and bacterial vaginosis has been indicated as a contributing factor to pre-term labor, thus making probiotics important for fetal health.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1140735/

Immunity

One of the main functions of healthful bacteria is to stimulate immune response.

By  eating probiotic-rich foods and maintaining good intestinal flora, one can also help to maintain a healthy immune system.

This could be an important strategy for cold and flu season as well as for those who are immunocompromised.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19442167

Obesity

Some studies have found that obese people have different gut bacteria than people who maintain an ideal body weight,  indicating that gut flora plays a role in weight and metabolism

Some research shows that probiotics can help obese people who have received bariatric surgery maintain weight loss.

The addition of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium capsules has been shown to help reduce waist circumference.

http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Probiotics-may-counter-obesity-and-diabetes-NIH-study

Mental Health

Probiotics can act as psychobiotics,  live organisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produce health benefits in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.

These bacteria are capable of producing and delivering neuroactive substances which act on the brain-gut axis and possess antidepressant or anxiolytic activity.

These effects may be mediated via the vagus nerve, spinal cord, or neuroendocrine systems.

Bifidobacterium infantis is the main organism that has been studied

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322313004083
Creating a favorable gut microbiome

Your gut bacteria are continuously affected by your environment, diet and lifestyle choices. If your microbiome is thrown out of balance, dysbiosis results, potentially leading to a number of illnesses. Some  factors that can cause dysbiosis can include:

Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) Agricultural and Environmental chemicals
Conventionally raised meats and other animal products. These animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and genetically modified feed Gluten containing grains Antibiotics and Birth control Pills
NSAID (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) Proton pump inhibitors(drugs that block the production of  stomach acid) Food Sensitivities that can lead to a “leaky gut”
Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Stress Pollution

Optimizing  your gut flora  through your diet involves eating whole, unprocessed, unsweetened foods, along with traditionally fermented or cultured foods, while at the same time reducing those factors that are harmful as mentioned above.

Consuming naturally fermented foods is one of the best ways to optimize your microbiome.

The following are sources of Prebiotic and probiotic rich foods:

           

 

  • Plain unflavored yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi and
  • Kombucha tea.

 

Try to work up to consuming one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies with each meal.

Also consider supplementing with  a high-potency probiotic.

There are about 100 trillion microbes living on and in you. Take care of them and they will return the favor.

 

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin

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