Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Probiotics - Do they really help?

Sorry for the late post :(  This will be in time for two weeks later Thursday Commentary Post.

Probiotics - what can be said of them?

If you were ask anyone about them, what would they say?  The majority of folks only know of them from being added to foods outside of being present in yogurt and kefir (cultured dairy beverage).  Those who know about them through that connection know they are supposed to help with your digestion and help you be healthier.

Take the ads for Activia yogurt - additional strains of  'good bacteria' are added to help your digestion become regular.  That is just another way of saying your bowels move easier and more consistently.  In general, any discussion of that activity has been perceived as 'potty mouth' anyway.  Who can have a serious discussion about that ?

Probiotics do much more than regulate your colon - they are essential to your immunity, hence your health.

There is a great guide by Eamonn M. Quigley, MD - Probiotics: The key to Digestive Health (Health Point Press, 2009) which goes into lengthy detail about how the 'good bacteria' work in your intestines and the key two families of bacteria which do the most good:

Lactobacillus - casei, acidophilus are the most common seen and consumed
Bifidobacteria - lesser known but being added into foods

Studies of the colon have shown that 70% of the immune response is in the digestive tract (intestines). The colon has billions of intestina flora which facilitate the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from what we eat back into our bloodstream. It is a delicate balance, and as such, with digestive disorders or 'food allergies' - the balance and health of those colonies of flora are already unsteady. The Lactobacilus family has also been shown to stimulate immune cells to consume toxic materials, inhibit the pathogens activity, as well as regulate the pH in the colon.

What we eat, what medicines we consume in the name of "fixing" or "curing" - have a major impact on the intestines.  Some folks get yeast overgrowth from over consumption of Penicillin; or get the 'runs' during or after consumption of any antibiotics; this is due to intestinal flora imbalance.  The anti-biotics kill off good bacteria and bad in the body causing a mutiny in the plumbing.  The consumption of Probiotics during the treatment of antibiotics helps keep the flora balance in line.

There are two camps of protocols on the usage of Probiotics - "Less is More" and "The more, the merrier".  Both camps have valid points and successes.  My perspective - both protocols work; it is just one I see more for acute conditions versus maintenance of health.
  • "Less is More" is why take a multi-bacteria spectrum when one or two key families will keep everything in line.
  • "The more, the merrier" is a more than 6 different key strains bundled together for a broad approach to balancing the flora.
In the cases of antibiotic induced diarrhea - the "Less is more" has a great impact especially in the C.difficile imbalance and there are many studies that support this.  In the case of Candida overgrowth, specifically L.acidophilus produces hydrogen peroxide as part of its processing which specifically restricts the growth of C.albicans.

The multi-spectrum approach I have found to be beneficial as well.  During a cleanse, a wide spectrum version like PB8 or Jarrodophilus or Theralac - help the intesting move the toxins out of the body without disrupting the balance of flora.  Also - on those days you eat something that may not been cooked well or may have potential for food poisoning - consumption of one or two doses within an hour after significantly reduces the impact or potential for digestive/intestinal upset.

So - do they help? Absolutely - and which ever approach you use your body will reap the benefits.  I would be happy to discuss individual cases if needed.

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