Probiotics – What are They and Should You Take Them?
When we hear the term bacteria, we automatically think it’s bad. The trend is changing, but not too long ago there was hand sanitizer everywhere. People would carry little bottles of it, buy antibacterial soap, fear bacteria, and try to kill it all. Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize!
What we are starting to understand is there is a great deal of healthy bacteria. We need these bacteria to be healthy. Bacteria are everywhere…and a LOT of it. In one teaspoon of dirt there is up to 1 BILLION bacteria! We have up to 5 POUNDS of living healthy bacteria (probiotics) in our digestive system. These probiotics produce vitamins, are essential for a healthy immune system, and are required for proper food digestion. A large part of human poop is actually live and dead bacteria. Recent research shows probiotics have a large influence on body weight and our psychological health.
So what is the problem?
Humans used to consume these healthy bacteria (probiotics) on a regular basis. Remember, there is up to 1 BILLION bacteria in a teaspoon of dirt in which our food is grown. Our produce today is often sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, pasteurized, irradiated, and basically just too clean. We consume a tiny fraction of the probiotics we once did.
Another major problem is the massive overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics can and do save lives. However, antibiotics also can and do cause harm. Antibiotics kill bacteria, both good and bad. Antibiotics can kill off the healthy bacteria required for optimal health. NSAIDS can also kill our healthy bacteria.
Most of us are consuming more antibiotics than we know. The vast majority of antibiotic use in the US is put in livestock food. One reason is antibiotics make animals, like chickens, gain weight much faster. Remember the link between lack of probiotics and weight gain! Another reason animals are given antibiotics is because of the unhealthy food fed to livestock. Cattle are given corn (sugar) to fatten them up before slaughter. Cattle really are not designed to eat large amounts of corn, so they become sick, often causing chronic diarrhea. The cattle feed is medicated with antibiotics to combat this.
So what does this have to do with you?
When you eat meat or drink the milk from animals given antibiotics, you are consuming antibiotics. This is one reason why free range organic is a much healthier option. Antibiotics in even a tiny amount can negatively affect the healthy bacteria in your digestive system.
Okay, so we know we NEED a sufficient amount of healthy bacteria in our digestive system and NO unhealthy bacteria; how can we make this happen?
Let’s imagine your digestive system is a garden. Vegetables are the good bacteria (probiotics) and weeds are bad bacteria like Clostridia. If you want a healthy garden, you need to plant lots of vegetables. You need to give the vegetables water, food, and sunlight to grow. If you take care of the vegetables, you will have a very healthy garden and weeds (bad bacteria) will have a hard time growing. You may have a few weeds in there but you will hardly notice. If you neglect your garden, weeds (unhealthy bacteria) will start to take over. You can then spray the weeds (antibiotics) and kill off the garden (veggies included), ridding it of weeds for a while. But if you don’t plant the vegetables and maintain them, the weeds will just come back and keep coming back. The key to a healthy gut is to make sure you are planting plenty of good bacteria and feeding them to stay healthy. It does not work to continually try and kill the weeds (bad bacteria) without growing the good. When you have a healthy gut full of healthy bacteria, the bad guys can’t survive; the good bacteria drown them out. That is the reason why some people get sick more often, stay sick longer, and never really seem to stay healthy. Their immune system is weak and they are prone to the bad bacteria (weeds) taking over.
Okay I’m in. I want to grow a healthy bacteria farm in my digestive system. How can I do it?
Who knows, maybe bacteria are the more intelligent species and they just grew humans as a place to live….it’s a theory I’ve read.
First, we have to try and avoid eating conventionally raised meats (and the antibiotics they are fed) as much as possible. We also need to realize that most of our sinus infections, colds, the flu, etc. are caused by a virus. Antibiotics should be avoided as much as possible as they do nothing against viruses. We need to avoid eating the processed foods, grains, and all the stuff you already know is bad! Those foods not only promote weight gain because of an excess of unhealthy calories, but also feed bad bacteria, which promote weight gain.
We also need to plant and maintain (our garden) the healthy bacteria in our digestive system. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha, pickled beets, pickles, pickled eggs, etc. are great sources of healthy bacteria. Choose organic produce when possible. Eating veggies picked fresh from the garden, grown in healthy bacteria rich soil, is great. Supplementation with probiotics is also a great option.
So, are all probiotic supplements the same?
Not even close. Just like you need to plant different vegetables to grow a healthy and diverse vegetable garden, there are different strains of bacteria that you need in your gut to be healthy.
How do we now which bacteria strains are good and which strains we should look for in a probiotic supplement?
- There needs to be evidence showing the bacteria can survive the acid in our stomach and grow in our digestive system. If healthy bacteria are killed, they are useless.
- The probiotics need to be alive. A supplement needs to be 3rd party tested proving there are living organisms in the capsules. This is why it’s best to keep them in a refrigerator; it helps keep the little buggers alive.
- Healthy bacteria of the human gut were established long before agriculture. Bacteria grown on dairy (yogurt) or grains (corn, wheat, soy) are not optimal strains for humans.Pasteurization kills bacteria so any bacteria in conventional dairy products will be dead anyhow. The probiotic needs to be from non-dairy or grain sources.
- There needs to be evidence showing the strain actually improves health outcomes.
Okay, I’m confused. Just tell me the best supplement to take and how much do I need!?
The probiotic I take and offer has 50 BILLION living healthy bacteria in each capsule. They are listed as CFU’s which stands for Colony Forming Units. This means the bacteria can survive and reproduce in your gut, creating healthy colonies (a healthy garden).
There are 16 different bacteria strains, each of which is proven to survive when eaten and proven to improve health outcomes. On the label it will tell you exactly how many CFU’s of each strain; this is very important. If you look at most probiotics it will give a number and then list a few strains on the back. A person has no idea what is actually in there. My money says there is a whole bunch of the cheapest strain to produce and a little bit of the others, just enough to put multiple on the label. DO NOT pay for them!
My wife and I each take one capsule every morning as a maintenance dose. If you have any digestive issues, gas, bloating, constipation, etc., or have recently been on an antibiotic, I would take at least one in the morning and evening for a month. I would recommend that as a therapeutic dose, eventually reducing to one per day.
What about kids? Your kids are more important than you! And they are growing faster and really need proper nutrition. If anyone should be taking good supplements, it is our kids. Fish oil, vitamin D, and probiotics really should be given to every kid. The probiotic is in a capsule that easily pulls apart. Just pull it apart and add some to their food or drink.
3 pages in and he’s still going…… I’m sorry! It’s now 4:30AM Saturday morning and that’s when my mind is the sharpest and I just keep going! Unfortunately I doubt anyone would come to a 4:00AM lecture. There’s more…..
What about Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are food for the bacteria. All living creatures need to eat! If you are eating the foods I have taught you to eat from day one, your probiotics will get all the food they need. Vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, eggs, water, and ideally organic will feed your (50 Trillion little) bacteria garden to be healthy and thriving.
Would you take poop pills? Yes, that is a reality. The poop of healthy people is being collected and put into capsules for people to take and restore their healthy bacteria! Personally, I think I’ll just choose healthy foods and take a good probiotic (grown from produce) than resort to poop pills.
But I don’t really have any symptoms; should I still take a probiotic?
I don’t have heart disease symptoms; do I still need to exercise? Too often people wait until symptoms appear before improving lifestyle decisions. It’s much wiser to make healthy choices and prevent symptoms from ever appearing.
I’ll give you a quick story. I used to have a teammate that would tease me for bringing my own food to softball tournaments. Cheesy pretzels, corn dogs, and nachos with “cheese” didn’t really appeal to me. Eventually that teammate developed hemorrhoids so bad he had to stuff his underwear with toilet paper to prevent the blood from soaking through his pants. The point: don’t wait until you have symptoms to make healthier choices!
When it comes to health care, there is no glory or media attention in prevention. If a doctor teaches you how to eat and exercise and you live your whole life disease free, you won’t hear the doctor’s name. If you have a heart attack and the emergency room brings you back, those people are heroes.
The same is true of war. The best generals have such great strategy the enemy accepts defeat without battle. You’ll never know that general’s name even though the battle was won and not a life lost. If a general wins a great battle with massive casualties, however, he is often remembered as a war hero. This analogy is from the book “The Art of War”.
In summary, taking a quality probiotic, Vitamin D, and Fish Oil in adequate amounts for your body size really is a wise choice. Get the nutrients we require to be healthy, avoid the CRAP (Consumables that Really Are Poison), exercise, and be grateful for all the awesomeness in life. You can’t change your genes, but your choices do change how they are expressed!
Congrats. If you understand this, you understand more about probiotics than most health care professionals! However, education without action is useless…..Apply it!
Probiotics are essential in assisting your body with nutrient absorption, and the overall result provides you with a healthier gut which leads to health and overall vitality. Following are a few positive benefits of probiotics proven by new research in 2015 and 2016:
- Enhances immune system
- Prevents severe infections following abdominal surgery
- Suppresses malignant cancer cells (breast, colon, prostate, and more)
- Acts as a co-treatment with radiation therapy for cancer
- Counters and improves digestive diseases (acute and chronic diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and colorectal cancer)
- Demonstrates cholesterol-reducing potential
- Halts and treats obesity-related metabolic diseases (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers)
- Curbs autoimmune response (Celiac disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, and more)
- Inhibits and improves allergies (food, dermatitis)
- Halts aging (restores acidic skin pH, alleviates oxidative stress, attenuates photo aging, improves skin barrier function, and enhances hair quality)
- Boosts brain health (cognition, memory, mood, and more)