The bowel contains over 400 species of bacteria weighing almost 4 pounds (1.5 kilos). Live bacteria make up about 30% of the mass of a stool. Some of these bacteria are potentially harmful and can cause disease. However, many are friendly bacteria and have a beneficial effect in our bodies. These beneficial bacteria are often referred to as 'probiotics' – this literally translates as 'for life'. Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus are the 'good' bacteria that normally inhabit our bowels and they are responsible for keeping 'bad' bacteria and fungi such as, candida albicans, under control. If the harmful bacteria dominate in the bowel essential vitamins and enzymes are not produced and the level of toxins in the body rises. This rise in harmful toxins can potentially cause cancer, liver and kidney disease, high blood pressure, artery disease and poor immunity.
The lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidus and other friendly bacteria are able to do the following.
- Weaken antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and 'supergerms' and infections in people who have a compromised immune system.
- Manufacture B vitamins (biotin, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and B12) and vitamin K.
- Inhibit the bacteria that convert nitrates into nitrites and secrete carcinogens – therefore they act as anti-cancer agents (especially in the bowel and bladder).
- Act as a natural antibiotic against 'bad' bacteria and viruses and yeasts such as candida albicans.
- Improve bowel function and elimination.
- Improve diarrhea conditions in irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, AIDs and in travelers.
- Relieve and prevent skin conditions such as acne and skin infections.
- Can assist in the protection against the adverse effects of radiation and pollution.
- Helps to reduce high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Helps to manage high stress levels and food cravings.
- Helps to eliminate bad breath.
- Helps to balance sex hormone levels and enhances fertility.
- Produces lactic acid and enhances the digestibility of foods.
- Assists in the prevention of osteoporosis.
- Can assist in the treatment of:
- o Allergies,
- o Eczema,
- o Psoriasis,
- o Colitis,
- o Irritable bowel syndrome,
- o Gastritis,
- o Duodenitis,
- o Diverticulitis,
- o Urinary tract infections,
- o Vaginitis,
- o Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, alopecia areata, scleroderma and so forth, and
- o Other chronic infections.
Probiotics have also been shown to have a beneficial effect on the course of pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. It is a far safer prescription than antibiotics and probiotics have been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of postpartum complications. Also if the mother has a healthy bowel population then the beneficial bacteria are transferred to the baby at birth (including when the delivery is by cesarian section). This means that the baby is less likely to develop fungal infections such as thrush and cradle cap. How do probiotics work?
There are several different ways that the probiotics work.
- They produce anti-microbial substances – organic acids, hydrogen peroxide and bacteriocins. These inhibit pathogen adhesions and degrade toxins produced by the 'bad' micro-organisms.
- They compete with 'bad' bacteria for binding sites as well as for nutrients.
- They secrete various proteins that stimulate the immune system both locally and throughout the body.
- They can prevent the movement of harmful micro-organism through the intestinal wall and into the lymph nodes, spleen, kidneys, liver and blood.
The adverse effects of probiotics Probiotics are generally considered to be very safe and well tolerated in the usual dosages. Highly sensitive individuals have reported the occasional occurrence of indigestion, nausea and heartburn. Very rare cases of liver abscesses due to L. acidophilus have been reported in cases of chronic pancreatitis undergoing surgery. Dosage The safe and effective dosage for most people is 1 to 10 billion viable L. acidophilus, L casei GG or B. bifidum organisms daily. Dosages in excess of 10 billion can cause intestinal disturbances.
Factors that suppress probiotics There are a number of things which will adversely affect probiotics. These include:
- a diet high in sugar and refined foods,
- chlorine in drinking water,
- prescription antibiotics,
- vaccinations and
- X rays.
It has also been found that the casein and antibiotics found in most commercially available dairy produces will also adversely affect the probiotics. Probiotics are a natural part of the healthy bowel and have many beneficial effects on the body. In particular they are able to counter the effects of harmful bacteria and yeasts such as candida albicans. Taking a friendly bacteria supplement containing lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidus and other beneficial bacteria can be of benefit in many conditions and can help to improve health.
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Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.