Probiotics and Prebiotics
We often think of bacteria as something to avoid but there are over 400 types of friendly anaerobic bacteria in our digestive tracts that are beneficial. Commonly referred to as intestinal flora, these bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum, promote a healthy digestive system and help to keep us disease free.
When the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems benefit as well. Intestinal flora…
- Contribute to the production of vitamin K, B12, B2, B6, biotin, folate, and small chain fatty acids
- Decrease inflammation and production of carcinogens via the metabolic processes
- Stimulate the maturation of normal immune cells
- Regulate the pH of the intestine
- Prevent pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and yeast from overgrowth and therefore promote digestive, urinary and genital health
- Alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance or diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatments
- Improve some types of eczema in infants and children
- Reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the risks of certain cancers by increasing fiber break down
Prebiotics are non-digestible components of food (specifically, oligosaccharides) that stimulate the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria food they can digest.
- Onions, Leeks and Garlic
- Jerusalem Artichoke
- Dandelion Greens
- Tomato Banana
- Chicory root
- Maple syrup
- Barley, Rye and Beer
- Red Cabbage
- Fructo-Oligo-Saccharide (FOS) Supplements
Probiotics help colonize and increase the number of good bacteria by providing a beneficial environment. Probiotics relieve symptoms of diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergy, and lactose mal-absorption. Probiotics compete for growth in the colon, secrete antimicrobial chemical mediators, enhance systemic and intestinal immune function, decrease mucus secretion and help maintain intestinal permeability and integrity.
Probiotic foods are:
- Live active cultured dairy like yogurt or kefir
- Live active cultured vegetables
“Acidophilus” means “acid-loving”, indicating that these bacteria live in acidic conditions and require a food source to survive such as lactose or fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Acidophilus may be found in food sources such as fresh, unpasteurized yogurt (pasteurization kills all bacteria) or in acidophilus milk. Check the label to make sure the yogurt or milk was cultured with acidophilus after pasteurization.
Probiotic supplements are ubiquitous in the market – you see a whole bunch of probiotics, many of them 15 strains, 30 strains, 100 billion or 200 billion colony forming units (CFUs) but the reality is that most microbes in supplements do not actively colonize your colon (they die from age, stomach acid, enzyme, bile, and our defenses). Even if most don’t survive however, some of the strains send out nanoparticles when they die that have a positive metabolic response. Ensure any brand you choose has PUBLISHED STUDIES of the microbiota being impacted in a positive way!
Acidophilus and bifidus supplementation for example is used to restore a normal, healthy population of intestinal organisms following various intestinal infections/infestations. Healthy fungi like Saccharomyces boulardii are used to help when candida has overgrown it’s balance. Soil based probiotics and fulvid/humic acid are also popular supplements to help ensure a healthy microbiome.
Probiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms, such as freeze dried powder, capsules, wafers, and liquids. Probiotics are commonly sold in colony forming units and should be contained in dark, refrigerated containers. Ideally you would want more than 2 billion colony forming units/gram of supplement daily. In any form of supplementation, in order to be effective, the bacteria must be alive, so it is important to find good quality sources.
Acidophilus and bifidus are killed by alcohol and antibiotics. Avoid alcohol while taking these probiotics in any form for therapeutic purposes. If you are taking antibiotics, wait until you have finished the course of treatment before starting acidophilus/bifidus.
All probiotic supplements should be taken on an empty stomach to decrease risk of die off with stomach acid (which is secreted during meals).
Synbiotics (Pre + Pro)
A synbiotic is defined as a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics that beneficially affects the host by improving the survival and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut. Synbiotics help with colonization by providing food for the microbiota as well as the biota itself.
- Supplements containing bacteria + prebiotic fibers
- Aim for supplements that contain 500–1,500 milligrams per day of prebiotics and 1 billion to 10 billion CFU of probiotics
- Fermented veggies
- Pickled vegetables
It is important to note that each type of friendly bacteria has a specific health benefit to the body. With over 400 different types of bacteria currently identified, researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each. Also, research has not yet determined what portion sizes are most effective so you’ll want to eat a variety pre and pro biotic foods regularly as part of your healthy diet. Other foods that promote a healthy intestine include dietary fiber, whey protein and green tea.
For ongoing preventative health, include healthy pre and probiotic foods regularly, for example, have a healthy snack of yogurt (a probiotic) with a sliced banana and some maple syrup (both are prebiotics). It’s not only yummy, it’s healthy!
If you have been on antibiotics or have any kind of dysbiosis where probiotics would be helpful please reach out so we can work together to find the appropriate ones for your needs.
My favorite probiotic supplements; all available through my site if you need a refill. Which one I would recommend for any client depends on that clients individual circumstance. I’m always here to help if you have questions and/or need guidance.
- Standard Process Lactic Acid Yeast (acidifies the GI tract creating a beneficial environment)
- Dr Ohhira’s Probiotics Professional Formula (Fermented probiotics and prebiotics)
- Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete (broad blend in inulin (prebiotic) base)
- Designs for Health ProbioSpore (spore-based probiotic)
- Jarrow Formulas – Saccharomyces Boulardii + MOS
Erin Williams, MSN CN LMP, is the founder of EZBalance.com, a health and wellness company established in 2001. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Purdue, a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, and is currently studying to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Erin enjoys sharing her love of natural health and wellness with people through lectures, blogs, and consultations.