Your body is made up of about 100 trillion cells, but of those only about 10% are “human”. The rest of the cells in our bodies – 90% of them – are made up of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, and our immune system is working properly with the help of all these small organisms living in unison.
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A Microbial Collection
Our first “infusion” of good gut bacteria begins when our eyes, nose, lips, and mouth slide through our mother’s birth canal. This transfer of flora is setting up the initial colonies that begin to populate the respiratory, urogenital, and gastrointestinal tracts.
The second “infusion” comes from colostrum, mother’s first milk after giving birth. Researches show that probiotics, when added to formulas or breast milk, may foster better growth and higher counts of healthy bacteria in the gut of preterm infants . They may also boost the immune system and improve feeding tolerance.
We have a huge microbial collection, mostly bacterial and we as a host provide nutrition occupying a space that a potential parasite or pathogen might otherwise colonize.
In return bacteria generates nutrients from indigestible dietary fiber thus aiding digestion. However, in certain situations “good” members of your normal flora can cause disease or invading pathogens can displace them.
By taking into account that 80 percent of your entire immune system is located in your digestive tract, most of our health issues are a result of our lifestyle and diet.
Predominant Causes That Damage The Gut Bacteria:
- Prescription antibiotics (decreases microbiota diversity).
- Medications like anti-cholesterol drugs, antidepressants and sleeping pills they penetrate the intestinal wall.
- Tap water, chlorinated drinking water – chlorine kills all bacteria, regardless of whether they are good or bad.
- GMO foods (read this article from Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology).
- Diet high in grains and alcohol (drives inflammation).
- Pasteurized foods, pesticide and herbicide use.
- Artificial food coloring and additives.
- Exposure to heavy metals.
- Excessive consumption of carbohydrates and sugar – pathogenic bacteria feed on sugar.
- Increase in the use and variety of vaccinations.
Once your system has a deficit of necessary “good” bacteria, it can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi and parasites. Many people with health issues, such as autoimmune disease – thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, skin disorders, frequent colds and flus and many other conditions don’t realize that these illnesses originate in the gut.
The secret to restoring your digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut, you MUST consider consuming probiotic rich foods and supplements daily.
Most Studied Bacterial Species And Their Role In Our Health:
L. acidophilus – is good for overall digestion, nutrient absorption, relief from occasional cramping, gas, and diarrhea, immune health, urinary and vaginal health in women.
L. fermentum – has been found in the probiotic foods sourdough and kimchi, produces superoxide dismutase and glutathione, both powerful antioxidants that help neutralize some of the toxic products made in the gut during digestion.
L. plantarum – plantarum is known for its ability to produce hydrogen peroxide which body uses as a defense against bacteria and other microorganisms. It is also effective in helping support immune function in healthy adults.
L. rhamnosus – this is known for its ability to survive passage through the GI tract and research concluded that L. rhamnosus may help improve vaginal and urinary health and decrease vaginal irritation. I also helps with traveler’s diarrhea.
L. salivarius – is capable of growing in less than ideal conditions, including environments high in salt, and with or without oxygen. It is found in the oral cavities (mouth, throat, and sinuses), intestines and vagina, but grows best in the small intestine. Researches have shown that people taking L. salivarius had better immune activity and helps to prevent the colonization of undesirable bacteria.
L. paracasei – found in the small intestine, it may also colonize in the colon if taken along with milk protein, which increases its resistance to stomach acid. It also has the unique ability to support liver function.
L. gasseri – supports digestive health and microflora in the vagina. Helps limit occasional diarrhea in adults.
L. reuteri – colonizes in both the intestine and oral cavity. Support digestive, oral, and immune health.
L. casei – supports immunity, inhibits h. pylori and helps fight infections.
L. bulgaricus – a powerful probiotic strain that has been shown to fight harmful bacteria that invades your digestive system and is stable enough to withstand the acidic digestive juices of the stomach. It also neutralizes toxins and naturally produces its own antibiotics.
Billions of Bifidobacterium line the walls of the large intestine (colon) and help ward off invasive harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, including yeast.
B. bifidum – the first to colonize in the intestines of babies and continues throughout life to be one of the main groups of good flora found in the large intestine. It also prevents the growth of bad bacteria, molds and yeasts by adhering to the intestinal mucosa better than other bacterial strains. B. Bifidum assists in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, fat, and proteins during digestion. It also produces enzymes that break the larger molecules down into smaller components. Also produces B-complex vitamins and vitamin K.
B. longum – ability to break down carbohydrates and to scavenge and neutralize everyday toxins found in the gut; facilitates the absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
B. infantis – is the largest population of beneficial bacteria in babies. The amount of B. infantis in our guts decline as we age. It decreases bloating and bowel movement difficulty, IBS symptoms.
Bacillus bacteria it is a spore-bearing bacterium, that produce lactic acid, it is highly resistant to heat, moisture, and light, making it highly resistant to stomach acid, and readily colonizes in the small intestine. Bacillus also resides in the body longer than other bacteria and is excreted slowly.
B. coagulans – produces enzymes that assist in the digestion of lactose. It also improves the body’s ability to use calcium, phosphorus, and iron, and stimulates both gastric juices and gastric motility.This strain also supports vaginal health in women.
B. subtilis – an endospore probiotic that’s heat-resistant. Elicits a potent immune response, suppresses growth of bad bacteria like salmonella and other pathogens.
S. salivarius K12 – is found in the oral cavity’s mucus membranes and is known for its ability to produce substances that inhibit other bad bacteria to grow. Reduces the development of sore throats. Studies linked the population of this bacteria with ear health in children, “significantly” reduced dental plaque and bad breath.
S. Salivarius M18S – found predominantly in oral mucosa and, like the K12 strain, it also inhibits the ability of bad bacteria to grow. It promotes a healthy inflammatory response in the gums.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a “friendly” live yeast used for regulation of intestinal microbial homeostasis, prevents pathogens to colonize and infect the mucosa, modulating local and systemic immune responses. Good for digestion problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), Lyme disease, and bacterial overgrowth in short bowel syndrome.
You can read a more detailed review about health benefits of probiotics here.
For a natural boost of probiotics in your system you should start to feed the probiotics, they are living organisms, they need fermentable, soluble fiber.
Some of high-fiber foods include chia seeds and flax seeds, fermented fruits and vegetables, adding homemade kefir is a really good start.
You can easily make your own kefir by using this starter culture. It is much more superior than the pasteurizer store bought version.
If you are lactose intolerant and can’t have dairy, there are a few good products, one of my favorite is ProBiota Sensitive – SCD and GAPS diet friendly without lactose.
If you want to use probiotics to help with a specific health concern, it’s vital to select the right probiotic for the right condition.
A really wide range of probiotics is contained in your food (Kefir – made with kefir grains, Sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, kombucha etc.).
Things To Consider When Buying A Probiotic Supplement:
- Brand quality — Look for brands that are reputable, live probiotics must be shipped in a temperature controlled package, to preserve the product potency, it should reveal the genus, species and strain.
- High CFU count — higher number of probiotics is better, from 15 billion to 100 billion. Health benefits can occur with 50 million CFUs for certain conditions and may take as many as 1 trillion CFU for others. At least one million live bacteria per gram are necessary in yogurt and other fermented drinks to provide the 10 billion CFU needed for health effect.
- Strain diversity — Search for a probiotic supplement that has 10–30 different strains.
- Survivability — Look for strains or formulas that ensure probiotics make it to the gut and are able to colonize.
- No fillers and additives.
There are tons of brands on the market and I tried many. I only experienced good results with a few:
- Renew Life – Ultimate Flora (50 billion) – diverse strain count;
- VSL #3;
- Garden of Life Probiotics (50 billion);
- ProBiota 12 – acid-stable technology so bacteria aren’t destroyed in the stomach.
Do your homework and look for brands that have strains that support your specific needs. I would recommended to switch from one brand to another in order to diversify the flora, this way our pathogens aren’t adapting in order to survive.
You can do a home test: by adding them to about 4 oz of cold milk and leaving them for 24-48 hours to see if it reacts with the milk. If it curdles, or becomes a yogurt like consistency – then probiotics are working and multiplying.