Probiotics: A Beginners Guide
Posted on July 09 2017
Sense of Balance Wellness studio recently hosted a free community workshop with our long-time client and seasoned authority - Barbara Cole, CRNP on the importance of Gut Health and nurturing the Microbiome...
Although many were able to attend and reap the benefit of Barb's vast knowledge on the subject, we wanted to share that information with those who were not able to come. In addition, the subject of PROBIOTICS and fermentation can be extremely daunting to one who doesn't have a scientific understanding of the gut and the Microbiome within it. This is meant as a first look at the information, what it has to do with WELLNESS, and what you can do to reap the benefits of a diverse Microbiome.
First of all, the Microbiome -- what does that mean???
The gut is said to be the "second brain" and in fact the cells in your stomach are the same kind of cells that are in your brain. Have you ever had a gut feeling? Have you ever felt your gut twist at the thought of something you hate? Butterflies when you see that special someone? Well that's because the gut, our system of stomach and intestines both small and large, are very smart.
The complexity of digestion and absorption of nutrients takes up much of the body's energy and time. In fact it was only after humans began the act of cultivating food and cooking our meats, which gave the gut a little less work to do, that the brains in our heads began to develop into the highly complex instruments of reasoning that they are today. By that I mean that the gut could be called our "first brain" and our brain the second! (If you are interested in more information on the subject check out, "The Gut: Our Second Brain" on Amazon.com)
As our guts evolved, so did the bacteria within our environments...
We both developed together in a symbiotic relationship. Bacteria can be described as micro plants. We need plants to live right? They give us vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. A BIOME is the community of flora and fauna occupying a particular habitat, in this case our Gut.
The "MICRO" "BIOME" is just that, the collection of bacteria and yeasts within your body which help you digest and absorb nutrients. The more diverse your Microbiome the better you are able to digest and support health and well being. Disease, therefore, can be described as a Dysbiosis; a disturbance or imbalance in your biome.
Barb showed us countless research examples of how an increase in the diversity of the biome can cause many of humanities most common ailments to disappear, from diabetes and heart disease to asthma and eczema. Even chronic inflammation and depression could be treated by introducing certain strains of bacteria into the Microbiome!
But what does this have to do with PROBIOTICS and FERMENTATION???
Well, before refrigeration we had to preserve and ferment a lot of our foods to keep them from spoiling over the winter. Most of these foods were lacto-fermented, a process that converts sugars into lactic acid. Bad bacteria which can make you sick do not survive the process, but good bacteria can thrive in this higher acidic formulation.
Nowadays we do not eat much in the way of fermented foods, though several are experiencing a renewed popularity on the market including: saurkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir (a yogurt-like beverage) and Kombucha (see Mount NitaNee Kombucha).
What about pickles? They aren't always lacto-fermented but instead they are "pickled" which means they are preserved in an acidic solution like vinegar which itself is a fermented liquid but that doesn't mean that you have reaped the benefit of this lacto-fermentation process.
Probiotic supplements and fermented foods and beverages are a way for us to, without too much additional effort, add in some more diversity to our Microbiome...
When you take Probiotics you need to be conservative at the start. Depending on the colonies that already live in your gut, you may be starting a war... or at least a small skirmish in there!
Get ready -- and here we need to get a bit graphic -- for some bowel discomfort and expulsions! Depending on your overall health, probiotics can either HELP to move things along (if you have constipation) or FIRM things up (if you have loose stools). On the whole probiotics are going to work on either problem to bring your body into homeostasis.
If you start by introducing too many probiotics you may experience this looseness or increased frequency of bowel movements. A healthy person should be having, as Barb told us, 2-3 bowel movements per day!
A single dose of 500 million L.acidophilus (the L is for Lactobacillus, remember our lacto-fermentation?) and L.bulgaricus (as is found in Sense of Balance Wellness product: Acidophilus) is sufficient to begin, adding an additional dose as tolerated. In this way, you can slowly work up to 5 billion cells per serving as in the Suprema Dophilus.
Some people might want to increase even beyond that, but a healthy and normal person can probably function quite nicely under that 5 billion per day, maybe adding an additional capsule on days where they feel under the weather.
Those with leaky gut or irritable bowels, might want to move up to 35 billion cells - likewise those who have been taking antibiotics would want to come off those gut-killing drugs and use a more therapeutic dose or higher level of probiotics to re-populate the gut.
Antibiotics are sometimes necessary to kill a bacterial infection in the body, but these drugs kill ALL the bacteria including the good gut bacteria in the body.
Antibiotics can also throw off the balance in the body, allowing yeast to form where usually it exists in balance with your good bacteria. Especially when it comes to chronic conditions that force you to use an antibiotic long-term. Using a quality probiotic with higher levels of diverse bacteria can be very important in reversing the effects of antibiotics.
In addition, those women who have a chronic relationship with either yeast infections or urinary tract infections can use a high dose of probiotics to create a balance in their body and support overall function and health like our Women's 50 Billion... But in any of these cases, I would still recommend that one starts with the lowest dose and work themselves up to the higher more therapeutic doses to prevent the loose bowels that can sometimes accompany probiotic use.
Fermented foods also come with the same slew of possible side effects, though of course it is much harder to overdose on something like saurkraut than it is on a probiotic capsule.
Kombucha, however, is another product where you should exercise some caution when you begin. While is it a delicious, refreshing (though some find it an acquired taste) and effervescent fermented tea beverage, it should be taken medicinally at first in small amounts to prevent loose stools just like with probiotics.
As you continue to drink your gut's ability to process Kombucha, you can then increase to exponential amounts of this gut healing tonic. Those who drink it report increased energy, heightened brain function, increased immunity to colds and flu, decreased disease and toxicity.
Of course -- none of these claims have been studied by the FDA, whose official word is that Kombucha "is not potentially hazardous", due mostly to it's low pH (usually >2.5) but is not willing to comment upon the possible health benefits attributed to this ancient beverage.
Keep an eye out for more posts about gut health, Probiotic use and benefits, and even a series on step-by-step Kombucha brewing! Give us some feedback in the comments below and we will try to incorporate your Good Gut questions into our next post!
Your Sense of Balance Wellness Team