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Why do we need probiotics?
September 30, 2013
The human intestinal tract is a very complex internal environment. It is filled with various species of bacteria and yeasts that should assist digestion, ward off harmful or pathogenic infections and even help produce many vitamins and other chemical substances needed for our health and long life. The name given to these organisms that live in our intestines is the intestinal flora. We inherit or acquire our gut flora from our mother at birth. Through the birth canal a baby swallows its first mouthfuls of bacteria, it then settles in the baby’s sterile gut and becomes gut flora. Breast feeding is another way mum passes her gut flora to her baby. So what ever lives in mum’s digestive system becomes the baby’s digestive system.
Unfortunately there are many factors after birth that can disrupt gut flora.
How has our gut flora become so drastically altered?
There has been a significant decrease in breastfeeding. We now know that breastfed babies develop entirely different gut flora compared to bottle-fed babies. Infant formula never was, and never will be an ideal replacement to breast milk. It is there for when all attempts to breast feed have failed. Bottle fed babies acquire completely different gut flora than those that are breast fed.
Ever since antibiotics were prescribed, particularly from the 50s and 60s, they were over-prescribed and misused. Patients were being prescribed antibiotics for viral infections and others were not finishing the course of antibiotics. Taking antibiotics, especially wide-spectrum antibiotics, often destroys the friendly intestinal flora. This allows other bacteria, viruses, yeasts and parasites to grow in the intestinal tract. A good quality probiotic supplement should be given during and after a course of antibiotics, but unfortunately not many people know to do this. With every course of antibiotics, the abnormalities in the gut flora get worse. Antibiotics have their place but misuse over the years has led to antibiotic resistant bacterial infections and super bugs like MRSA. It has also resulted in a large number of people with poor gut flora and as a result weakened immune systems and poor gut health.
The Contraceptive Pill
The contraceptive pill is detrimental to beneficial bacterial flora in the gut leaving it vulnerable to colonization and dominance from pathogenic strains such as Candida Albicans (thrush), Streptococci and Staphylococci among others.
“The effect of contraceptive pills on the composition of bacteria in the gut is devastating. The longer the lady is on the contraceptive pill, the deeper will be the damage on her gut flora.” – Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride MD
Often the most important cause for overall poor health today is an incorrect diet. Convenient processed foods affect the gut flora. Drinking milk and eating meat from animals that are routinely given antibiotics, steroids and other drugs damage the gut flora. Eat only organic milk and meat. Too much sugar and processed carbohydrates (white bread, cakes, biscuits, pastries, and pasta) feed and therefore increase the number of bad bacteria. They also create a habitat for a number of different fungi.
Why is our gut flora so important?
In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that the microbes in your gut play a much more vital role in your health than previously thought possible. In fact, probiotics, along with a host of other gut microorganisms, are so crucial to your health that researchers have compared them to “a newly recognized organ.” Besides research implicating gut bacteria in mental health and behaviour, other research has shown that your microbiota (population of bacteria) also has an impact on:
Immune system function: Our gut flora plays a massive role in mediating our entire immune response. The human gastro-intestinal tract houses the bulk of the human immune system, about 70% of it. Biologist Sarkis Mazmanian believes bacteria can train your immune system to distinguish between “foreign” microbes and those originating in your body. His work is laying the groundwork for new therapies using probiotics to treat a variety of diseases, particularly autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. When the good and bad bacteria are out of balance in our gut it can lead to a condition called leaky gut! This can be aggravated even further by dietary factors which irritate the gut (e.g. gluten and anti-nutrients from grain, lactose and many more). Leaky gut is when the intestinal lining becomes irritated and inflamed. As a result food particles get into the blood stream before they are fully absorbed leading to:
• Autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, MS, lupus, thyroid disease, inner ear disease, crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to mention but a few).
• Poor absorption of nutrients: a lot of time and preparation goes into having a healthy diet. In order to reap the benefits, the nutrients must be absorbed in the gut. It is therefore important to make sure that your gut flora is at an optimal level and foods which irritate the gut are avoided to maximise absorption of the nutrients in your diet.
Gene expression: Researchers have discovered that the absence or presence of gut microorganisms during infancy permanently alters gene expression. Through gene profiling, they were able to discern that this change in gene expression had an effect on learning, memory, and motor control. This suggests that gut bacteria are closely tied to early brain development and subsequent behaviour.
In a similar way, probiotics have also been found to influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.
Diabetes: Bacterial populations in the gut of diabetics6 differ from non-diabetics, according to a study from Denmark. In particular, diabetics had fewer Firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, compared to non-diabetics. The study also found a positive correlation for the ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance. The researchers concluded:
“The results of this study indicate that type 2 diabetes in humans is associated with compositional changes in intestinal microbiota.”
Obesity: The make-up of gut bacteria tends to differ in lean vs. obese people. This is one of the strongest areas of probiotic research to date. The bottom line is that restoring your gut flora should be an important consideration if you’re struggling to lose weight.
Autism: Establishment of normal gut flora in the first 20 days or so of life plays a crucial role in appropriate maturation of your baby’s immune system. Hence, babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems and it is suggested in the literature that they are particularly at risk for developing such disorders as ADHD, learning disabilities and autism, particularly if they are vaccinated before restoring balance to their gut flora. This area of research is in its infancy and it will be interesting to see what is revealed in the not too distant future.
So how do we take care of our gut flora?
In addition to the dietary advice above, taking a good quality probiotic supplement with a high number of bacteria per capsule (CPU) on a daily ongoing basis can improve the gut flora leading to many benefits. The major benefits of a high-quality probiotic are to…
• Aid you in digesting and absorbing nutrients from food, particularly hard-to-digest foods and foods to which some individuals are more sensitive
• Enhance the synthesis of B vitamins and improve calcium absorption
• Help you keep a healthy balance of intestinal microflora
Eat fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables as they are full of friendly bacteria. There are many books out there with recipes on fermenting food. Avoid taking antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs where possible. Of course they are necessary some times, so when you do have to take them, take a good quality probiotic supplement especially during and after. Avoid processed foods, sugar and man made chemicals as these will not help your gut flora to stay healthy.
Why do we recommend Pure encapsulations Probiotic 50B?
• Is one of the highest dose supplements on the market with 50 billion bacteria per capsule.
• Contains no hidden coatings, excipients, binders, fillers, shellacs, artificial colours or fragrance
• Is suitable for people with intolerances because it does not contain any dairy, wheat, yeast, gluten, corn, sugar, soy or hydrogenated oils.
• Is in acid-resistant capsules with a pH targeted release. This means the bacteria survive the acid environment of the stomach and reach the gut without being destroyed.
Don’t be fooled by cheaper alternatives on the high street. Check the dose and quality of the product. We have researched the market and stock this product because it is the best value product available of this quality.
The following are the basic steps to making wonderful cultured vegetables at home.
1. Vegetable and Herb Selection: The first step is gathering up your veggies. Make sure they are all organic. Cabbage (red or green) should be the “backbone” of your blend, comprising about 80 percent (I use green). Choose dense, tightly packed heads. Remember to reserve some cabbage leaves for the jar tops (see Step 3).
Add in hard root vegetables of your liking, such as carrots, golden beets, radishes and turnips. Peel your veggies as the skins can impart a bitter flavor. I also enjoy adding red bell pepper, Granny Smith apples, and even a hot pepper, like a habanero (make sure you wear gloves!). One pepper for the entire batch is plenty.
Aromatics can be added in small quantities — a little goes a long way, as fermenting concentrates the pungent flavors. Tasty additions include peeled garlic, peeled ginger, and herbs such as basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, or oregano. Onions tend to overpower the mix, no matter how little are used, so I avoid them.
Finally, you can add sea vegetables or seaweed to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content. You can add pieces of whole dulse, or use flakes. Wakame and sea palm do not have any kind of fishy flavour but need to be presoaked and diced into the desired size. Arame and hijaki DO have a fishy flavour.
2. Culture and Brine:
For your brine, I recommend using a starter culture dissolved in celery juice. While you can do wild fermentation (allowing whatever is naturally on the vegetable to take hold), this method is more time consuming, and the end product is less certain. Inoculating the food with a starter culture speeds up the fermentation process.
3. Starter Culture – I recommend using two of our Complete Probiotic Capsules for every two pints of fermented vegetables as that is very close to what our final culture will be.
4. Packing the Jars: Once you have your shredded veggies and brine mixture combined in your large bowl, tightly pack the mixture into each Mason jar, and compress using a masher to remove any air pockets. Top with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides. Make sure the veggies are completely covered with brine and that the brine is all the way to the top of the jar, to eliminate trapped air. Put the lids on the jars loosely, as they will expand due to the gases produced in fermentation.
5. Fermentation: Allow the jars to sit in a relatively warm place for several days, ideally around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius). During the summer, veggies are typically done in three or four days. In the winter, they may need seven days. The only way to tell when they’re done is to open up a jar and have a taste. Once you’re happy with the flavour and consistency, move the jars into your refrigerator.
6. Storage: Refrigerating your vegetables drastically slows down the fermentation. They will keep for many months this way, continuing to mature very slowly over time.
7. Enjoy! Always use a clean spoon to take out what you’re eating. Never eat out of the jar, as you will contaminate the entire batch with bacteria from your mouth. Make sure the remaining veggies are covered with the brine solution before replacing the lid.
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