When it’s time to leave the house, do you have your checklist ready?
At the time of writing, we are living through a global pandemic. It’s not surprising that these days, you will likely find regular citizens carrying all of the above with them, and for the more cautious among us, face shields and gloves as well.
This has become ‘normal’ considering the circumstances and frankly, necessary if we are to emerge triumphant from this particularly disturbing period in our lifetime. I find it interesting however that in an age where we fight so valiantly to rid ourselves of harmful bacteria, we often forget that there are beneficial bacteria that our body needs in order to function optimally. The fact is, many trillions of bacteria live inside of us at any given time. There is at least one bacterium for every cell in our body.
Sounds terrifying doesn’t it?
According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD, from Gut and Psychology Syndrome, “humans, cannot live without these tiny micro-organisms, which we carry on, and in our bodies everywhere.” In fact, nearly 70% of our immune system function is associated with the bacteria that is present in our GI tract.
The modern diet does not provide most of us with the live cultures our gut needs in order to function optimally. Unless we are regularly consuming fermented foods like Kimchi, or sauerkraut as well as yoghurts and miso, there is a high likelihood that we are not getting all the bacteria we need.
That’s where probiotics come into play.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a combination of ‘good’ bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in our bodies. These good bacteria act as an internal army, helping us to fight off any bad bacteria that comes our way. Although the modern diet is seriously lacking in these live cultures, they can easily be supplemented with probiotics.
Most people will see the biggest benefit from using a probiotic that includes many strains and a large number of bacteria. While it may seem strange to intentionally ingest bacteria, good bacteria help us to function and feel better. Doctors recommend at least 8 billion per day and those with significant GI disorders may require even higher doses – as much as 50B or even more then 400B CFUs per day. (In microbiology, a CFU stands for colony-forming units. It is a unit that we use for estimating the number of viable bacteria or the fungal cells in a sample.)
Why do we need Probiotics?
Alongside the crucial advantage to our immune system mentioned above, supplementing with probiotics can help with other unpleasant afflictions those suffering with, may not have thought to attribute to an imbalance in gut flora. There are a number of symptoms we can suffer from if the bacteria levels in our gut are not where they should be. These include abdominal pain, gas bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.
Imbalances in our gut flora are common, especially with our modern diet, high stress levels, increasingly sedentary lifestyles as well as our growing access to medication/pharmaceutics.
Antibiotic therapy, illness, poor diet, stress, and environmental toxins all interfere with and affect the health of our gut flora. This combination of lifestyle and diet factors means most people will need to supplement with probiotics.
This is particularly important after you have to take a course of antibiotics because many of your good bacteria will have been killed off. However, it is important to take a practitioner recommended probiotic based on your own unique case. In the case of a person who has had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) it is best to use a broad spectrum, soil based probiotic.
Why some Probiotics are better than others?
In today’s market, there are many different brands and bacterial strains available. The most popular strain is Acidophilus however, just as we are told to maintain a varied diet, it’s important to consider variety when it comes to probiotic supplementation. Different bacteria are known to aid different ailments so doctors will prescribe different strains accordingly. We call this ‘Targeted Use.’ For example, those suffering from diarrhoea should supplement with Saccharomyces Boulardii or Lactobacillus Plantarum, whereas those suffering from constipation should look for a brand with at least 50% Bifidobacterium species. However, in the case of a person with Candida, Saccharomyces Boulardii are not recommended as they are yeast based probiotics.
I like to recommend spore-forming probiotics from Probiospore. These are soil-based microorganisms found in dirt and vegetation. Traditional probiotics are similar to those naturally found in the human GI tract (e.g., lactobacilli, bifidobacteria). Spore-based probiotics are delivered as dormant spores. What makes them special is their durable nature which is due to the coats of protein they are surrounded in. This allows them to survive in hostile environmental conditions like heat, humidity, UV radiation and even solvents, hydrogen peroxide, and enzymes.
Because of their durable nature, no refrigeration is required to keep these probiotics active which makes them extremely convenient and portable. This is my go-to probiotic recommendation for general use.
For women, often a more targeted approach is required. Imbalances in female gut bacteria lead to imbalances in vaginal flora. This can cause the uncomfortable onset of thrush or urinary tract infections (UTI’s). Experience has taught me that my female patients who suffer from regular bouts of vaginal thrush or UTI’s, see excellent results when they supplement with Optibac for women probiotics. These are Live Cultures that help support the vaginal flora.
A healthy vagina typically contains strains of Lactobacilli bacteria which produce lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and other substances, all of which help to keep the pH balance in the vagina at an optimum pH of 4.5 (slightly acidic). Optibac regulates the PH balance and helps relieve and prevent uncomfortable side effects.
The Importance of Inoculating the Gut After Taking Antibiotics
Probiotics are not a cure-all. A recent study published in the journal Cell, suggests that probiotics might not always be the best route for everyone. The researchers from Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and other institutions found that taking probiotics after antibiotics might actually delay the normal functioning of a gut microbiome as opposed to allowing everything to return to normal on it’s own.
This new research causes much debate in the medical community but ultimately, it shows us that there’s a lot more we need to learn about how our gut microbiome works. It’s important to keep in mind that the study only showed the effects of a particular cocktail of probiotics, after a particular course of antibiotics. Different probiotics are likely to still be helpful in a patient taking another type of antibiotic. For example, taking a probiotic like Bifidobacteria has still been shown to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Understanding all the intricacies of probiotics may be complex, but maintaining a healthy balance is essential for optimal gut health. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi, may be an alternative beneficial method of restoring normal gut bacteria for patients after they have taken a course of antibiotics. Common practice for most medical practitioners however, still seems to be the prescription of probiotics.
Whatever route you choose to go, it’s important to remember that when beginning a pre and probiotics course, be sure to start with a relatively low daily dose (<10B) for roughly two weeks. This will give your body time to adjust before increasing your dosage. Short-term bloating and gas increases are normal as the body adjusts to the extra support.
I have recently added Vivomixx to my preferred list of probiotics. Vivomixx contains 8 different strains of bacteria to help to maintain a healthy digestive system. Following intense research including more than 60 clinical studies, this specific formula is receiving a lot of positive attention. It has appeared in over 170 original publications and has been approved by the major international gastroenterology associations.
If you feel your balance is off or if you have been experiencing uncomfortable and recurring symptoms, reach out to me for a FREE, 20 minute discovery call and let me see how I can help you.