Beneficial Bacteria: An Army of Billions
When you are healthy, over 100 trillion microorganisms, from some 400 different species, flourish in your intestinal tract, aiding in digestion, absorption, and the production of significant amounts of B vitamins and enzymes. But more importantly, they crowd out all harmful bacteria -- allowing them no place to gain a foothold.
Unfortunately, the levels of beneficial bacteria decline dramatically as the human body ages. Some of the reasons for this decline include:
- Over time, the colonies of friendly bacteria just naturally age and lose their vitality
- Disruptions and changes in the acid/alkaline balance of the bowels can play a major role in reducing the growth of beneficial bacteria. In addition, these changes tend to favor the growth of harmful viral and fungal organisms as well as putrefactive, disease-causing bacteria.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Advil, Motrin, Midol, etc. are destructive to intestinal flora
- Chlorine in the drinking water not only serves to kill bacteria in the water; it is equally devastating to the colonies of beneficial bacteria living in the intestines.
- Radiation and chemotherapy are devastating to your inner bacterial environment.
- Virtually all meat and chicken and dairy that you eat (other than organic) is loaded with antibiotics, which destroy ALL of the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.
- A diet high in meats and fats, because they take so long to break down in the human body, promotes the growth of the harmful, putrefying bacteria.
- Constipation, of course, allows harmful bacteria to hang around longer, which allows them to proliferate.
- Cigarettes, alcohol, and stress are also major culprits -- as are some antibiotic herbs, such as goldenseal (if taken in sufficient quantity).
- And if you've ever been subjected to a round of "medicinal" antibiotics, you can kiss your beneficial bacteria good-bye. The problem is that antibiotics indiscriminately destroy both bad and GOOD bacteria -- allowing virulent, mutant strains of harmful microorganisms to emerge and run rampant inside the body. Antibiotics (both medicinal and in our food supply) are the #1 culprit in the overgrowth of HARMFUL pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract (a condition called dysbiosis) that may be at the root of many autoimmune disorders and certain cancers.
The Bottom Line to Immunity
A properly functioning intestinal tract is one of your body's first lines of defense against invaders and a healthy immune system. In a healthy colon there are, on average, anywhere from 100 billion to 1,000 billion beneficial bacteria per milliliter (about 1/5 of a teaspoon) that literally consume harmful bacteria and other invaders. In the typical American, because of poor diet and neglect of the colon, the beneficial bacteria count may be as low as 4 or 5 per milliliter. Just compare 1,000 billion to 4, and you'll have an understanding of the scope of the problem. Many researchers now believe that declining levels of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract may actually mark the onset of chronic degenerative disease and a suppressed immune system.
The Benefits of a Healthy Intestinal Tract
The benefits of a probiotically optimized intestinal tract include:
- Lowered cholesterol
- Inhibition of cancer
- Protection against food poisoning
- Protection against stomach ulcers
- Protection against lactose intolerance and casein intolerance
- Enhanced immunity
- Protection against many harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi
- Protection against candida overgrowth and vaginal yeast infections
- Prevention and correction of constipation and diarrhea, ileitis and colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and a whole range of other digestive tract dysfunctions
- Improvement in the health and appearance of the skin
- Better nutrition from improved absorption and the internal generation of B vitamins.
- Protection against vaginosis and yeast infections
A Key to Good Health: Probiotics
There can be no true health or recovery from disease unless you have colonies of over 100 trillion beneficial microorganisms flourishing in your intestinal tract, from your mouth to your anus, aiding in digestion, absorption, the production of significant amounts of vitamins and enzymes, and working to crowd out all harmful bacteria -- allowing them no place to gain a foothold. SUPPLEMENTATION WITH A GOOD PROBIOTIC IS MANDATORY TO RAISE YOUR BASELINE OF HEALTH.
The Best Probiotic Formulas
A good probiotic formula is absolutely essential for long-term intestinal health, and long-term parasite control. When choosing a probiotic, look for the following characteristics:
- Not all strains of beneficial bacteria are created equal. For each type of bacteria, there are recognized super strains. Choose a formula that uses only recognized super strains of beneficial bacteria -- clearly identified as such on the label or in the company literature.
- Make sure the formula you choose includes the all-important supernatant -- the medium the culture was grown in. The supernatant, contains a multitude of beneficial byproducts of the growth process, including: vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and immune stimulators.
Then there's the question of how many live microorganisms are left in your formula when you actually use it. Pick up any probiotic formula, look at the label, and you'll see something like: "Contains 13 billion live organisms per capsule at time of manufacture." And that's the problem: "at time of manufacture."
The die-off rate for probiotics can be astounding. Most formulas will experience a die-off approaching log 3 within just 60 days of manufacture. that means that the 13 billion you see on the label may be down to 13 million, or less, by the time you use it. Heat and moisture accelerate the process, which is why most manufacturers recommend keeping your probiotic supply refrigerated.
There are many beneficial bacteria that can be contained in a good probiotic, but two are preeminent. Look for a formula based on these two:
- L. acidophilus resides primarily in the small intestine and produces a number of powerful antimicrobial compounds in the gut (including: acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin). These compounds can inhibit the growth and toxin producing capabilities of some 23 known disease-causing pathogens (including: campylobacter, listeria, and staphylococci), as well as reduce tumor growth and effectively neutralize or inhibit carcinogenic substances.
It's also important to note that L. acidophilus is the primary beneficia bacteria in the vaginal tract. When the presence of the acidophilus is compromised, this allows the bad guys such as Gardnerella vaginalis or E. coli or Chlamydia to take over.
- Many researchers believe that declining levels of bifidobacteria in the large intestine actually mark the eventual onset of chronic degenerative disease. Bifidobacteria benefit the body in a number of ways. They: Consume old fecal matter, Have the ability to remove cancer-forming elements (or the enzymes which lead to their formation), and protect against the formation of liver, colon, and mammary gland tumors.
More is not always better. Too many beneficial bacteria in one formula may find the bacteria competing with each other before they can establish themselves in separate areas of the intestinal tract. On the other hand, there are several other bacteria that are extremely beneficial in any probiotic formula.
- L salivarius helps digest foods in the intestinal tract and makes vital nutrients more assimilable. It also works to eat away encrusted fecal matter throughout the entire colon; it helps repair the intestinal tract by providing needed enzymes and essential nutrients; and it adheres to the intestinal wall, thereby forming a living matrix that helps protect the mucosal lining.
- L. rhamnosus is a powerful immune stimulator. It can increase the natural killing activity of spleen cells, which may help to prevent tumor formation. It boosts the ability of the body to destroy foreign invaders and other harmful matter by three times normal activity; and has been shown to increase circulating antibody levels by six to eight times.
- L. plantarum has the ability to eliminate thousands of species of pathogenic bacteria. It also as extremely high adherence potential for epithelial tissue and seems to favor colonizing the same areas of the intestinal tract that E. coli prefers -- in effect, serving to crowd E. coli out of the body. At one time, plantarum was a major part of our diets (found in sourdough bread, sauerkraut, etc.), but is now virtually nowhere to be found.
- Note: a good probiotic formulation will usually contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. For some friendly bacteria, such as the Bifidus, FOS can increase their effectiveness by a factor of 1,000 times or more!!
Guidelines For Taking Probiotics
One final note: start slowly. When you first start using a probiotic supplement, there is a chance that you will precipitate a die-off of bad bacteria in your intestinal tract. This can lead to gas, stomach rumblings, and cramping for up to three weeks.