Probiotics
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 Building Better Health

Part 4

Probiotics Essential for Health

                          by Jay Constant PHD

     Another perfect day here in rural New Hampshire. Today I am going to let all of you in on another one of those big secrets in building better health. The facts are all well known, its just the people responsible for telling you don't tell you. Why don't they tell you, probably because they simply don't know. Today we will try to cover what has been termed "probiotics". The word biotics, comes from Latin and means "life". Thus "probiotics" must mean "prolife". This would also in turn mean "antibiotics" means "antilife". We all are aware of antibiotics, and I am sure have used them sometime in our lifetime. When we get sick, the antibiotics kill the bad guys, the bacteria, and we get better. However, they also kill all the good guys, which if not remedied, can lead to every "anti" health condition known to mankind. The remedy is actually quite simple, its our lack of education and lack of profession guidance that becomes the problem. Thus, today's big secret applies to all of us, and is crucial to anyone tying to build better health, to either stay healthy or become healthy.

    Today's information comes from many sources, but much from Brenda Watson in Florida.


    When I originally started this series, I was going to teach the systems approach of building better health, based on the fact that only the body can and will heal itself. However, there is a particular order for this to occur. The first system is always digestion, and the second is elimination. Everything starts in the stomach, then enters the intestines. I appeared to get off tract a little by talking about the merits of food sodium, magnesium, and the omega 3 fatty acids. However, all 3 are crucial for so many things, and all body systems, including digestion and elimination. Probiotics are specific to digestion and elimination. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract. The digestive tract is home to more than 500 different species of bacteria, which ideally, would be 80% good bacteria, and 20% bad bacteria. There are literally trillions of individual bacteria living in our digestive tract, with a majority living in the large intestine. The two most prevalent probiotics are Lactobacillus, which live in the small intestine, and Bifidobacteria, living in the large intestine.

    What are the benefits of probiotics? To begin, probiotics play an important role in both health and disease. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host", which is you. A partial list would include the following: Probiotics promote a healthy immune system. Did you know that 70% of your immune system is located in the digestive tract? (I actually didn't know that either). A healthy supply of good bacteria is essential to support immunity. An overgrowth of bad bacteria could suppress and overload the immune system. Remember I said earlier that a healthy balance would be 80% good bacteria, and 20% bad. Thus, health begins to suffer as this balance goes the other way. Everyday we consume harmful bacteria, its everywhere, in the air, in our food, and on everything we touch. Its simply the way it is. The key to good health is as simple as insuring we have enough good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria. A diet rich in fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and some yogurts are high in good bacteria, and these foods should be eaten everyday along with fiber, at least 25 grams of fiber or more. Why fiber? Because good bacteria live and thrive in soluble fiber such as flax, psyillum, oat bran, and my favorite, slippery elm. When the good bacteria live in a high fiber environment, they multiply, and when they multiply enough, the can crowd the bad bacteria and maintain the proper balance. There are also some very high end supplements at the local health food store that can help restore and maintain the balance.

    Probiotics can regulate allergy response, maintain a healthy colon for regularity, manufacture many vitamins including the B's and K, promotes detoxification of intestinal toxins, manufacture many digestive enzymes which help the body digest food thoroughly, and create an unfriendly environment for harmful bacteria, and yeast. Overgrowth of yeast populations are a major problem in the U.S. caused by antibiotics, and can produce systemic symptoms.
What can cause a bacterial imbalance? A diet that doesn't include foods rich in probiotics, no fiber in the diet, and consuming antibiotics. Antibiotics are a powerful tool used during times of illness, to destroy the infection causing bacteria. However, this can lead the digestive system vulnerable to the growth of any other potentially harmful bacteria, that are not eliminated. Antibiotics kill the bad bacteria, but also kill off good bacteria too. Did you know that modern day farming practices include antibiotics in regular daily feed of the animals to protect them from getting disease. When we eat the meat of these animals, we unknowingly consume the antibiotics they ingested. Antibiotics are not the only substances that reduce our probiotic populations. Chlorinated drinking water, antibacterial soaps, and a majority of the food preservatives prevent bacterial growth.

    The consequences of a probiotic imbalance are numerous, and would include diarrhea, constipation, excessive gas, yeast overgrowth, yeast infection, foot fungus, jock itch, weaken immune system, excessive weight gain, lactose intolerance, poor digestion, complex carbohydrate intolerance, deficiencies of many B vitamins, particularly biotin, folic acid, B6, B12, B3, and pantothenic acid. Because 70% of our immune system is found in the digestive tract, a lack of probiotics can result in problems related to low immunity. Think about that one for a minute, and draw your own conclusions. The critical importance of a healthy intestinal environment is essential for every ill health condition known. In a healthy small intestine, the most prevalent probiotic is called Lactobacilli. Lactobacilli helps regulate the immune system, digest nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and milk sugar and produce compounds and acids that create and unfriendly environment for potentially harmful bacterial (which are always present and fighting for space). Lactobacilli is the probiotic which keeps yeast populations (also produced in the intestines) in controllable and minimal populations. In a healthy large intestine, also called the colon, the most prevalent bacteria is called Bifidobacteria. Because the large intestine (the colon) has less movement and slower movement than the small intestine, its is much easier for potentially harmful bacteria to take up residence and multiply. Bifidobacteria is the major line of defense against bad bacterial in the large intestine. It fights bad bacteria by its sheer numbers. It also produces acidic compounds that help reduce the bad bacteria's ability to multiply. Bifidobacteria also fements in soluble fiber and produce compounds including short chain fatty acids, several B vitamins, and vitamin K. Unfortunately bifidobacteria populations naturally decline with age, thus the importance of regular supplementation. Many studies are currently ongoing exploring the link between the decline of bifidobacteria and ageing. (Like I always tell people, old age is a digestive problem).

    Choosing a probiotic can be confusing, so consider the following. First, you should always get a high potency formula with significant amounts of both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. These are the 2 primary probiotics in the digestive tract, and thus immune system. A high Bifidobacteria is hard to find. The second factor is age. The older you get, the more probiotics you need. Third, if choosing a probiotic to take after antibiotic use, take very high potency amounts to address this period. Forth, make sure the supplemental probiotic is enteric coated to insure probiotics pass through the stomach into the intestines where they are needed most. Liquid and powdered versions may be destroyed in the stomach by hydrochloric acid, however, there are many exceptions to this such as people on acid reducing medications and antibiotics. Fifth, if there is a particular digestive problem or medication, add an amino acid called L glutamine. Lastly and extremely important, if traveling out of the U.S., don't leave home without it. Its not so much that food and water are bad in foreign countries, its just different than the digestive tract is used to. My wife and I got dysentery on the Nile River in Egypt, and on the Nazca Plains in south Peru. Horrible feeling where you wish you were dead. However, we took literally billions of probiotics several times per day, plus a few "secret herbs" like olive leaf, umboshi plum, and a slippery elm, and we were off to climb the pyramids and walk the lines. We continued the regime long after our return to the US and continue to do so to this day, however in smaller amounts.

    I am currently in the process of building a web site for your questions, comment, and complaints, but right now, I am off to Hampton Beach for a few days mini vacation in late August. I still have the benefits of summer, but the masses of people are gone. Will I bring my probiotics? I would never leave home without them. 

Till next time.............j

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