WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS – A simple Primer probiotics
by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

What are probiotics? The term “probiotic” means supporting life, as opposed to “antibiotic” which essentially means against life.It is generally accepted that antibiotics deplete the friendly bacteria in our intestines which perform many important functions.  Stress, faulty diet, and poor digestion are also factors in the depletion of these vital factors. Replenishing the flora in our gut on a regular basis, and particularly when undergoing a course of antibiotics, is a simple, important and effective strategy to protect our overall health.Probiotics are friendly and beneficial bacteria. Although there are hundreds of different strains of bacteria that live in the digestive tract, beneficial bacteria are generally placed in two categories: lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum. These bacteria are normal inhabitants of the large and small intestines. They provide many health benefits.

Why are probiotics so important?

  • Probiotics reduce the levels of harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and Salmonella by producing metabolic end-products that inhibit or antagonize them. These compounds include hydrogen peroxide, lactic and acetic acids.  **
  • Inhibiting levels of microbial pathogens: L. Acidophilus may inhibit pathogens by lowering the pH in the intestines. The production of organic acids effectively lowers intestinal pH to a level that is beneficial to good bacteria and destructive to pathogens.
  • Protecting the immune system.  Some research ( see link at right) shows that L. Bulgaricus and L. Casei are the truly effective strains for this function. 
  • Preventing establishment of harmful fungus and parasites: L. Acidophilus and B. Bifidus aggressively attach themselves to the walls of the colon. In doing so, they may inhibit Candida albicans, bacteria and the parasite Giardia lamblia.  
  • Lowering levels of toxic by-products: Harmful bacteria can produce toxins, such as indole, skatole, and methane because of their metabolic reaction to certain foods. Reducing their numbers may lower toxin levels in the colon.  
  • Assist in digestion of lactose: Clinical studies have shown that L. Acidophilus assists the body’s natural process of digestion, particularly lactose and dietary carbohydrates.
  • Synthesizing important B vitamins: Probiotics have been found to be beneficial in the synthesis of folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin.

Which Probiotics are best?

Strains that naturally occur in the human digestive tract are called resident strains. Strains that do not naturally occur are called transient. Acidophilus and B. Bifidum are common resident probiotics. Other resident strains are Lactobacillus Salivarius, Bifidobacterium Infantis, and Bifidobacterium Longum.

While transient strains may offer some of the same benefits of resident strains, naturally occurring flora are known to work in harmony with each other, and they will stay and grow in the intestines, while transient strains leave with normal evacuation.

Probiotics are often enhanced with pre -biotics, which are substrates that enable the beneficial flora to implant in the colon and grow.  FOS (Fructooligosaccharides) are on example of this, another is inulin.

Much of the information here comes from Brenda Watson at Renewlife.com

** last year, it seemed every month brought new alarms about the food supply, with spinach, green onions, oysters, and peanut butter leading the lists of infected foods.

Some research done at the University of Cork may offer a strategy to cope with this situation.

The study investigated the effects of oral treatment of pigs with a defined lactic acid bacteria culture mixture on both clinical and microbiological signs of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium infection. Fifteen weaned pigs blocked by sex and weight were administered control milk or a mixture of five probiotic strains as either a milk fermentate or milk suspension for a total of 30 days. The mixture consisted of two strains of Lactobacillus murinus and one strain each of Lactobacillus salivarius subsp. salivarius, Lactobacillus pentosus and Pediococcus pentosaceous.Following probiotic administration for six days, animals were challenged orally with serovar Typhimurium. The health of the animals and the microbiological composition of their feces were monitored for 23 days post-infection.The study found that animals treated with probiotics showed reduced incidence, severity and duration of diarrhea. These animals also gained weight at a greater rate than control pigs administered skim milk. Mean fecal numbers of Salmonella were significantly reduced in probiotic-treated animals at 15 days post-infection.Researchers concluded that the administration of probiotic bacteria improved both the clinical and microbiological outcome of Salmonella infection. These strains offer significant benefit for use in the food industry and may have potential in human applications.

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotic  is the name given to certain health-promoting but indigestible fibers, mostly carbohydrates, which help the probiotics implant and multiply in your gut. Some sources are jerusalem artichokes, legumes, peas and grains.

Inulin is perhaps the best known, it is a natural, plant-derived dietary fiber, prebiotic  and non-absorbable oligosaccharide, or sugar. It has been suggested that Inulin should be avoided because it binds to minerals in the small intestine. The contrary is actually true:  allowing the minerals to proceed unhindered to the large intestine, where absorption is enhanced, improves their uptake. This may well contribute to the prevention of osteoporosis and osteopenia.

 Prebiotics usually appear on labels as FOS, or fructooligosaccharides. FOS are resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract and are, therefore, able to stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains farther down in the large intestine.  FOS have been shown to increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium and decrease triglycerides. In animal studies, FOS are also demonstrating anticancer effects, significantly reducing the incidence of colon tumors.

Find the recommended supplements here

Various Lactobacilli strains and Immunity http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=2612376

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