The human gut contains a myriad of microorganisms which form an ecosystem known as microbiota. Human microbiota plays a vital role in the human body by regulating immune and inflammatory responses, producing certain vitamins and biologically active substances, scavenging for non-digested food components and metabolites (for example, uric acid causing gout), and feeding the intestinal lining. Disturbances in the human microbiota can be caused by antibiotics, excessive carbohydrate consumption, prolonged use of birth control pills, immunosuppression, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
This can result in colon inflammation, yeast overgrowth, and leaky gut syndrome eventually triggering chronic fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, and headaches.
Gluten intolerance and coeliac disease and leaky gut may cause profound changes in gut microbiota which persist for years and years and so in addition to dietary changes, efficient gut healing requires the use of probiotics and prebiotics.
So what can probiotics help you with?
Allergies and intolerances: At least one large, high quality study found a relationship between women taking probiotics during pregnancy and a 30 percent reduction in the instance of childhood eczema (an early sign of allergies) in their infants.
Researchers selected women who had a history of seasonal allergies — or whose partners had histories of 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.
Antibiotic associated diarrhoea or other gut stress (antibiotics are designed to kill illness causing bacteria but also kill healthy intestinal for a that help us digest), Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with symptoms such as bloating, cramps, constipation and diarrhoea and even those who just wish to maintain good gut health.
Immunity: One of the main functions of good gut bacteria is to stimulate our immune response. For example one study showed that students drinking a fermented dairy drink had increased lymphocytes (a marker of immunity).
Obesity: In 2006 Stanford University researchers found that obese people had different gut bacteria than normal weigh people – the first indication that gut flora plays in weight. More recently, research has shown that natural gut bacteria plays a role in the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A 2012 study reported by Medical News Today, for example, suggested that bacteria residing in the large intestine may slow down the activity of energy burning brown fat, contributing to the development of obesity. See http://www.jci.org/articles/view/72517#top
Urinary tract infections: Probiotics make a nice compliment to antibiotics among people who suffer from urinary tract infections. What’s more, there’s emerging evidence that regular 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, according to research from the University of Maryland Medical Centre.
Women’s Health: The vagina relies on a balance of good and bacterial and when that balance is off bacterial and yeast infections (common, annoying and uncomfortable) can occur. Some studies show L. acidophilus may help prevent infections, manage and active infection or support antibiotic treatment. Probiotics can be taken as vaginal suppositories.
Probiotics may also have a role in maternal health as pregnant women are more susceptible to vaginal infections and bacterial vaginitis has been indicated as a contributing factor to pre-term labour, making probiotics potentially important for foetal health.
So, what are Probiotics?
There are over 400 different species of microorganisms in various regions of our digestive tract, making up nearly two kg of total body weight. This includes harmful as well as useful bacteria. Probiotics are foods or concentrates of live organisms that contribute to a healthy microbial environment and suppress the potential harmful microbes. Probiotics can be bacteria, moulds or yeast. But most are bacteria. Among bacteria, lactic acid bacteria are more popular. The first recorded probiotic was fermented milk.
They can be consumed in the form of food supplements or as a part of live fermented foods such as pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, live yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, kimchi, and gluten-free soy sauce.
Clinical and research data demonstrate that probiotics benefit people with chronic diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Certain probiotic strains (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactococcus lactis) may help with the digestion of lactose, soy, and animal proteins (Lactobacillus plantarum). Probiotics (Lactobacillus salivarius, Bifidobacterium bifidus, and Bifidobacterium lactis) can be used for the prevention of colon cancer and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure (Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei). Another important aspect of probiotics (Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus) is their ability to eradicate Helicobacter pylori (a microorganism causing ulcers) and to reduce symptoms of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea due to Clostridium difficile. Recently, a particular probiotic, Bacillus coagulans, was shown to possess strong anti-inflammatory activity and benefit people with rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. Finally, probiotics (Lactobacillus rhamnosus) can be used to treat various skin diseases like eczema.
Which probiotic should I use?
Selecting probiotics for individual use can be a tough process due to the broad variety of strains, strengths, and brands available in the market. Commercially available probiotics come in the form of single strain or multiple strain preparations. For general purposes, it is preferred to use multiple strain products to imitate the diverse environment of the human gut.
The amount of consumed probiotics is counted in Colony Forming Units (CFUs). In general, if you take probiotics just for maintenance of intestinal health, you should take 20-25 billion CFUs a day. During antibiotic therapy, increase consumption to 100 billion CFUs a day. Treatment of chronic yeast (Candida) infection, leaky gut syndrome, and colitis quite often requires the daily dose of probiotics in the range of 100-500 billion CFUs a day.
Contact Sheena Hendon Health if you would like assistance working out if you need a pro or prebiotic and which strain
What are prebiotics and why are they important?
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrate-based food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria) in the gastrointestinal tract. In contrast to probiotics, prebiotics are not live microorganisms but rather heat-resistant fibre-like substances. The health effects of prebiotics are brought about by increased production of short-chain fatty acids by the stimulated bacteria, which feed normal gut microbiota and supply energy to the cells that form the intestinal lining. Simply put, the prebiotics can be viewed as the probiotics pack lunch.
Natural products rich in prebiotics include various vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, leeks, onion, and artichoke. Another valuable source of prebiotics is brewer’s yeast. Prebiotic food ingredients include bran and psyllium husks.
Prebiotics are classified into several groups: short-chain, long-chain, and full-spectrum prebiotics. Short-chain prebiotics are mainly fermented in the right-side of the colon, providing nourishment to the bacteria in that area. Longer-chain prebiotics are fermented more slowly, nourishing bacteria predominantly in the left-side of the colon. Full-spectrum prebiotics nourish bacteria throughout the entire colon.
Consumption of prebiotics not only normalizes intestinal gut microbiota but also aids in the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, stimulates immune responses, reduces inflammation, prevents colon cancer, and normalizes bowel movements.
Mannan-oligosaccharides or MOS, derived from the cell wall of brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a great prebiotic – not only a “feeder” of good gut bacteria but is also one of the strongest stimulants of our immune system. Animal and human data show that MOS can restore the damaged intestinal lining (intestinal villi), stimulate digestive enzymes, and prevent certain intestinal infections.
So what are Synbiotics?
The combination of probiotics and prebiotics is known as synbiotics. Commercially available synbiotics can be found in the form of prefixed mixtures. However, in clinic synbiotics are created by individually administering pre- and probiotics, which provides us with better flexibility depending on the health issue we are working with.
• Initial consumption of pre- and probiotics, especially at high doses and high CFUs, results in excessive gas formation, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. Be patient. These problems typically disappear in 3-4 days.
• In general, we recommend taking probiotics on an empty stomach. If you take probiotics at a dose equal to or above 100 billion CFUs, divide their consumption between AM and PM.
• You do not have to take pre- and probiotics together. Prebiotics can be taken with meals.
•Remember, probiotics are live microorganisms that can be killed by antibiotics. Therefore, if you take antibiotics, separate the consumption of probiotics from the antibiotics by at least 2 hours. Or after a course of antibiotics I recommend a 2 week (or more) course of probiotics.