PROBIOTICS – TUNE UP IMMUNITY IN THE DIGESTIVE TRACT

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Most chronic inflammatory conditions start in the digestive tract.

In my last post I addressed the critical part that digestion plays in staying free of inflammation. If nutrients are improperly absorbed and toxins are not discarded right, then chronic inflammation begins to manifest.
Digestion is the engine that drives our health.             
Lots of common conditions that begin to show up as abdominal bloating, acid reflux, constipation, infections, diarrhea, low energy, and food allergies are indicators that digestion is sluggish and weak.

Our digestive tract is responsible for about 70% of the immune system. It makes sense that if  digestion is poor so is our immunity 
Protection of the digestive system starts with our natural microflora.
From the moment we leave the womb we immediately acquire our own intestinal non -pathogenic microorganisms. These microorganisms (microflora) are benign bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Bacteria make up most of the microflora and Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are the most researched. Our microflora cover the intestinal tract mainly to compete and protect it from disease causing pathogens. This is the beginning of our natural immunity.
Why is our microflora critical in protecting the digestive tract?
Our normal microflora is present in the digestive tract to protect it from being invaded with disease causing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. We have trillions of microorganisms mostly bacteria, living in our intestinal tract mainly in the colon. Around 85% of the bacteria in our intestines are benign and around 15 % are pathogenic.
It is critical to keep this balance in check otherwise pathogens begin to thrive and cause infections and inflammatory conditions.


Also, without the right amount of our microflora  present, nutrients in the intestines are not absorbed correctly. If harmful bacteria colonize the intestinal tract walls, then they can damage its cells and keep nutrients from being absorbed. The permeability of the membranes in the intestine are compromised and toxins, pathogens and undigested food can leak out back into the circulation.
When nutrients are not absorbed correctly and toxicity is recycled back into the circulation, it is easy to see how infections, food allergies, and inflammatory conditions get started.

How does our microflora protect us?
Primarily our microflora competes with harmful pathogens (including Candida overgrowth) for the space lining the walls of the intestinal tract and for its nutrients. This physical barrier created by the presence of the microflora protects the intestinal wall’s cells which transport nutrients into the body and keep toxins and pathogens out. Besides taking up space to keep pathogens from spreading, they also metabolize and compete with pathogens for essential nutrients. They keep the population of disease causing microorganisms in check.
They also lower the pH in the intestines and create an acidic environment by releasing lactic acid .This acidic environment  is harmful to pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Additionally they produce substances such as hydrogen peroxide and  organic acids wich work like natural antibiotics to eliminate pathogens.             
Other benefits from our microflora include preventing imbalances like diarrhea by increasing bile acid absorption and maintaining pathogens in check. They can reduce constipation by inducing intestinal contractions.
Microflora help to maintain and produce levels of B vitamins and vitamin K, fatty acids, and enhance the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which are benign bacteria, are able to make lactase which is an enzyme which breaks up lactose (dairy). They are able to metabolize undigested carbohydrates like lactose which is very beneficial especially if you are lactose intolerant.


Additionally they produce short chain fatty acids which are building blocks to restore and build up the cellular membranes which are the gates in the intestinal tract.

What depletes our microflora?
Foods and drinks such as processed, high-fat and junk food, red meat, refined sugars, chlorinated water, excess alcohol, and sodas can run down our microflora levels.
They are also depleted by common medications especially antibiotics, antacids, corticosteroids, NSAID’s, and birth control pills.
Antibiotics and birth control pills can reduce benign bacteria to the point that Candida which is a fungus is overgrown and chronic fungal infections start to show up.
Other factors such as stress, digestive disorders, pesticides, and environmental pollution also reduce it.
What foods replenish it?
Fermented foods are foods that are made or preserved by microorganisms. Some of the best foods to replenish the microflora are yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, kefir and kombucha tea.


Prebiotics are foods that nourish the existing micoflora. These are non digestable fibers and carbohydrates such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) found in some fruits and vegetables like onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, and oats.

What are probiotic supplements?                                         
Probiotic supplements help to restore the balance that is lost to our natural microflora. The word probiotic means in support of life.
Probiotic supplements contain mainly live Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium cultures as the benign bacteria, and Saccharomyces as the benign yeast or fungus.
A good probiotic supplement consists of :
  • A combination of  live cultures of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces  with the genus and species listed on the label for example: Lactobacillus (genus) acidophilus (species),
  • At least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) per tablet or capsule
  • The date stamped on the label stating the expiration of viable microorganisms
  • Enteric coated or encapsulated to be able to pass through the stomach
  • Freeze-drying process to be stable at room temperature.
  • Laboratory  with good manufacturing practices which has tested the strength and microorganism composition

A starting adult dosage is 2 billion units per day. If you are taking probiotics to enhance digestion take with food, and on empty stomach if taking to replenish the levels.
Adult dosages can vary from 1 to 15 billion units daily.
Some good probiotic supplements are:
DDS Plus by UAS Laboratories
Primal Defense by Garden Of Life
Probiotic All Flora by New Chapter
Jarrow- Dophilus by Jarrow Formulas
Ultimate Flora Critical Care by Renew Life
Taking probiotics to keep a  healthy balance of good bacteria keeps our immunity and the digestive engine running at its peak.
Camille Medina, RPh
Natural Pharmacy C.l.i.n.i.c.  llc

The information provided here is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Suggestions and ideas presented in this document are for information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice, or for diagnosing  illness. Seek advice from a health care professional before administering any dietary supplements.


References

Nutrition Science News, June 1999 A Probiotics Primer, David Wolfson, N.D.
Enzymes and Probiotics are Keys to Healthy Digestion , Decker Weiss, NMD

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