Probiotics

Probiotics – you shouldn’t live without these supplements

One of the first lessons I remember learning when I started being interested in nutrition was the importance of probiotics to our inner garden.  Yet, the more I study the subject the more I come to appreciate how vitally important our gut bacteria is to our health.  Numerous studies demonstrate that many diseases can be treated with probiotics. These include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Atopic Dermatitis

  • Diarrhoea

  • Allergic Rhinitis

  • As well as the common cold!

 

It is interesting that eating sugar in fact nourishes the bad or pathogenic bacteria yeast and fungi in the gut, which may actually harm more than its impact on insulin resistance.  One of the major results of eating a healthy diet is that it may cause the beneficial gut bacteria to flourish, and they secondarily perform the real "magic" of restoring balanced health. You may have noticed that probiotics are now featuring in articles relating to all sorts of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease.

 

A woman's gut flora can also influence the health of her child, and if the child's gut flora is compromised from birth, he may be at an increased risk of vaccine damage. In fact, this imbalanced gut flora may be the principal cause that contributes to children having an adverse reaction to a vaccine.  Fortunately, this imbalance can be easily screened and if it is found, all immunisations should be avoided until it is corrected with adequate strategies.[1] These strategies include simple and inexpensive screening which could prevent a lifetime of suffering.

 

All in all, the research into probiotics indicates that supplementing with probiotics is probably more important than taking a multi-vitamin and its true importance for our health is probably right up there with vitamin D.

 

The human body contains about 100 trillion bacteria, which is more than 10 times the number of cells we have in our entire body. It's now quite clear that the type and quantity of microorganisms in the gut interact with the body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of numerous illnesses.  The ideal ratio between the bacteria in your gut is 85% "good" and 15%"bad."  It is essential to maintain this ratio for balanced health, since probiotics (healthy bacteria) have more than 30 beneficial known pharmacological actions. 

 

Probiotics are also essential for optimal digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, and they help the body produce vitamins, absorb minerals and support the elimination of toxins. Probiotics are linked to more than 170 different diseases and health conditions.  These include:

 

  • Celiac disease, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome and Food and wheat allergies

  • Mood, psychological health, and behaviour

  • Epstein-Barr virus and Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes

  • Common cold, influenza, pneumonia and Herpes

  • High cholesterol and hypertension

  • Acne, Eczema and atopic dermatitis

  • Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and cancer

 

It's imperative to be aware that gut bacteria are very vulnerable to lifestyle- and environmental factors, such as:

  • Sugar / fructose

  • Refined grains

  • Processed foods

  • Antibiotics (including antibiotics given to livestock for food production)

  • Chlorinated and fluoridated water

  • Antibacterial soaps and detergents

  • Agricultural chemicals and pesticides

  • Pollution

 

All of these factors throw your inner garden out of whack, and, as you can see, many of these factors are persistent and can be difficult to avoid. Yet, it is possible.

 

By simply altering our diet to avoid processed foods and focusing on whole (ideally locally grown organic) foods will make a big difference.  That change by itself will dramatically decrease the amount of sugar and fructose consumed, as well as inevitably limit our exposure to antibiotics and agricultural chemicals.

 

Nausea, headaches, sugar cravings and cravings refined carbohydrate foods are all symptoms that suggest that unhealthy bacteria have taken widespread presence in your gut, and that you probably need to add some healthy probiotics to your diet.

 

Two additional indicators that gut flora may have been adversely affected are depression and lowered immunity. Both of these are actually consistent side effects of poor gut health, but they're usually completely overlooked due to the fact that most people, including many healthcare providers, do not realize that 80% of our immune system is located in the digestive system, making a healthy gut a priority for maintaining optimal health.

 

Additionally, the gut is quite literally our second brain, as it originates from the same type of tissue as the brain.   During foetal development, one part turns into the central nervous system, while the other develops into the enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from the brainstem down to the abdomen. Hence the gut and the brain work together, each influencing the other. This is why intestinal health can have such a profound influence on mental health, and vice versa.

 

This might also explain the connection between neurological disorders such as ADHD and autism and gastrointestinal dysfunction. For example, gluten intolerance is featured in autism, and the condition of many autistic children will improve when following a strict gluten-free diet.

 

However, crucially, establishing optimal gut flora within the first 20 days or so after birth plays a crucial role in proper development of a baby's immune system.

 

Babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems, and this may be a critical factor when it comes to vaccine-induced damage because vaccinations were originally developed for children with healthy immune systems, and children with abnormal gut flora and therefore babies with compromised immunity are not suitable candidates for our current vaccine schedule as they're more disposed to being harmed.  Another detail that helps explain how abnormal gut flora can impact your neurological status is that certain probiotics also appear to play a role in detoxing harmful chemicals.

 

The best way to ensure optimal gut flora is regular consumption of traditionally fermented foods. Healthy options include:

 

  • Lassi (an Indian yogurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner)

  • Various pickled fermentations of cabbage sauerkraut, turnips, aubergine, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots

  • Tempeh and Kimchi

  • Natto (fermented soy)

  • Fermented raw milk such as kefir or yogurt, but NOT commercial versions, which typically do not have live cultures and are loaded with sugars that feed the pathogenic bacteria.

 

Be sure to stay away of pasteurised versions, as pasteurisation will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. Case in point, most of the "probiotic" yogurts which are found in in the supermarkets are NOT good choices. Since they're pasteurised, they will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurised milk products . They will also normally contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, colourants, or artificial sweeteners; all of which will only aggravate your health.

The added benefit of adding fermented foods to the diet is that some of them are also excellent sources of vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque build-up and heart disease. Cheese curd is an excellent source of both probiotics and vitamin K2. You can also obtain all the daily vitamin K2 you'll need (about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams, or half an ounce, of natto every day.

 

However, if you don’t like the taste of fermented food, taking a probiotic supplement is highly recommended. While I do normally recommend taking a selection of supplements when there are deficiencies or for very active people, a high quality probiotic is an exception to that rule. To ensure quality and efficacy, I recommend opting for a probiotic supplement that satisfies the following criteria:

 

  • The bacteria strains in the product must be able to survive your stomach acid and bile, so that they reach your intestines alive in adequate numbers.

  • The bacteria strains must have health-promoting features.

  • The probiotic activity must be guaranteed throughout the entire production process, storage period and shelf life of the product.

 

Through my experience of clinical practice, I've found that no single probiotic supplement works for everyone. However, more people seem to respond well to Bacillus coagulans than any other probiotic, so when in doubt, this is a good starting point. 

 

I recommend these probiotics

 

[1] Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Depression, Schizophrenia. 2010.

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