By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND
Most of us associate bacteria with disease. We think bacteria as something to be eliminated and destroyed. This has created an almost obsessive use of disinfectants in our culture. But, not all bacteria are bad. It is the action of bacteria, for example, that allows milk to be fermented to create cheese, yogurt and kiefer. Bacteria also create other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and tofu. Another benefit of bacteria is that they break down minerals in the soil and make them available to the roots of plants. So, plants need bacteria to be healthy.
Our "roots," that is, the place where we absorb water and nutrients, are in our intestinal tract, and bacteria play an important role there too. In fact, there are about three to four pounds of friendly microorganisms living in the testinal tract, most of them bacteria. A proper balance of these microbes is essential to health because we live in a symbiotic relationship with microorganisms. Many strains of bacteria are actually part of our body's natural ecosystem. They serve to help protect the body against unfriendly microbes.
There are many different species of beneficial bacteria inhabiting our intestines. Many belong to the genus Lactobacillus. These include L acidophilus, one of the first strain sold as a supplement.
When beginning a probiotic regimen, start with Eleven Elevated for 30 days then transition to Probiotic Eleven as a daily use probiotic. You may also use Eleven Elevated periodically to boost or strengthen your daily regimen or under times of increased stress.
Another genus containing species of friendly bacteria is Bifidobacterium, sometimes referred as bifidophilus. A third major group belong to the Streptcoccus genus.
Bacillus coagulans is a strain of friendly probiotic that is naturally heat-stable. It can also more readily withstand the stomach's acidic environment, thereby better providing targeted support to the intestine and maintaining balance in the microbiome.
There are many others.
The good bacteria inhabiting the intestines are called friendly flora or probiotics. Biotic is from a Greek word that refers to life. So probiotic means favorable to life. This in contrast to the word antibiotic, which literally means against life.
Antibiotics weaken the immune system because they destroy the friendly flora.
These friendly flora are actually part of the immune system. Friendly bacteria enhance the immune system in several ways. First of all, they form a sort of living "blanket" that coats the intestinal tract and inhibits other species of microorganisms from "gaining a foot-hold" on the intestinal mucosa. They compete with other microbes for food, which also holds down the growth of infectious organisms.
Friendly bacteria even produce chemicals that are deadly to harmful forms of bacteria, so they act as natural antibiotic agents against harmful bacteria. Another benefit of friendly bacteria is that they have a stimulating effect on the body's immune system. For instance, animal studies showed that S. thermophilus and bulgaricus increased proliferation of lymphocytes, stimulated B lymphocytes and activated macrophages.
A well-known benefit of friendly flora is their ability to keep yeast, such as candida albicans, and harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, in check. When antibiotics, chemotherapy, Chlorine or other chemicals or drugs destroy the friendly flora, yeast multiply out of control. Yeast secrete a toxin that weakens the intestinal membranes and reduces the immune response. Probiotics are the antidote to this problem, helping to restore a healthy intestinal microflora.
Probiotics also help overall colon health. They reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disorders such as colitis,
Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. They also reduce the risk of colon cancer. They should be used as part of a natural treatment plan for these diseases.
Healthy intestinal microflora improve the body's ability to digest fats and proteins.
Probiotics synthesize certain vitamins the body needs, including B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid and biotin. The synthesis of B12 by probiotics is particularly important for vegetarians who are not getting this vitamin in their diets.
The friendly flora also help detoxify certain poisons in the digestive tract. For instance, they help break down ammonia, cholesterol and excess hormones.
The anthraquinone glycosides in stimulant laxative herbs like cascara sagrada and senna are activated by the intestinal microflora. In fact, these herbs are much less effective if the intestinal microflora is out of balance. Probiotics by themselves help to overcome constipation, too.
Finally, about 70% of the energy requirements of the intestinal mucosa come from fatty acids produced as a byproduct of bacterial fermentation. This means that the intestinal microflora actually helps feed the intestinal lining demonstrating how vital this synergistic relationship is to health. In fact, a healthy intestinal microflora is such an important part of total health, that some health researchers feel it should be considered as an independent body system. The intestinal microflora is a highly adaptable system, as it changes constantly, adapting itself to one's diet and environment. It is easy to see why a balanced intestinal microflora is such an important factor in a healthy body.
When looking for a probiotic product look for one that contains several strains of bacteria such as acidophilus, bifidophilus, etc. Make certain that the product is stored in the refrigerator, as the bacteria are living organisms and will die quickly when stored a room temperatures (Except for Probiotic Eleven which does not need to be kept refrigerated).
How to take probiotics
Probiotics can be taken orally or used in
enemas or douches for yeast infection. They may be sprinkled in the diaper for thrush-related diaper rash. The best
product for general use is Probiotic Eleven.
Children benefit highly from Bifidophilus (Probiotic Power for Kids).
For general use take 1 to 2 capsules before meals on an empty stomach. These products work best when taken first thing in the morning about one hour before breakfast-
Even better, empty 3-5 capsules into a cup of room temperature water, dissolve, and inject rectally using a bulb syringe.
This implants the bacteria right where they are needed.
Probiotics are especially helpful when traveling abroad because they help to prevent traveler's diarrhea. When traveling, double or triple the amount normally consumed, and take them with meals, plus, take 1 additional capsule with any in-between meal snack.