Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Gut and Your Immune System

Keeping a healthy, strong immune system is crucial to optimal health. Our immune system is our key defense against infection and disease, especially as we age. Our modern diets are seriously lacking the beneficial bacteria and flora that the gut needs in order to stay balanced.

Regular use of quality probiotics improves the intestine’s immunologic barrier, which fortifies the body’s protection against pathogens. It also helps to balance our gut bacteria, which can be sent off balance by stress, inflammation, surgery or injury, illness, age or antibiotics. Notice the prefix in that word: “anti.” Antibiotics kill both bad and good bacteria, so it is vital to rebalance it when taking this medication.

Right now, probiotic use is being clinically shown to improve intestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD). Probiotic bacteria produce metabolites, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), that demonstrate powerful anti-inflammatory effects. This gives great hope to those people suffering from these intestinal diseases, because traditional medical treatments are somewhat disappointing. In these conditions, it is thought that the intestines become inflamed due to the body’s immune reaction against it own intestinal tissue. This inflammatory response can be triggered by a pathogen or an antigen (allergy).

Seventy percent of the body’s natural immune defenses are found in the gut, so it makes sense to supplement with a probiotic featuring beneficial digestive enzymes in order to strengthen our body’s defense systems. In fact, you have ten times more gut bacteria than you do human body cells. CLA has also been demonstrated to have an effect on our T cells, which are necessary for fighting off infections. Why supplement with a probiotic if there are already thousands of species of microorganisms in the gut? Many of these microorganisms are transient, and must be replaced on a regular basis. This is crucial not only for optimal health, but especially for those suffering from intestinal inflammation diseases. For these people, probiotic bacteria can normalize gut mucosal dysfunction, alleviate inflammation and reduce hypersensitivity reactions.

Recent lab studies have shown that when probiotic diversity in the gut was increased, the gut pathology decreased. This shows us that taking probiotics and eating foods that encourage these healthy bacteria does help to improve our digestive health. Additionally, studies have shown promise in using CLA to hinder the growth of tumors in colon tissues.

There are ways that we can help support the bacteria in our gut and achieve optimal health. We should eat plenty of prebiotics, which are foods that actually feed the bacteria in your gut. These are:

  • Fermented dairy, such as kefir and yogurt
  • Fruits, such as cherries, bananas and berries
  • Vegetables, such as kale, chard, garlic, onions, leeks, chicory, asparagus and artichokes
  • Whole grains, such as wheat, barley and oatmeal (they must be whole grains)

Eat plenty of foods that contain probiotics, which will also help support your gut bacteria. These are:

  • Cheeses, cottage cheese and buttermilk
  • Soy products, such as miso and tempeh
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi
  • A quality, raw and fermented probiotic containing the entire lactobacillus family, the saccharomyces and the rhodopseudomonas strains
  • Take a quality blend of vitamins, enzymes and antioxidant

When eating fermented vegetables, make sure that they are unpasteurized, as this process kills the beneficial bacteria. Make sure to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins and eat plenty of fiber to keep things in your gut moving. It is still prudent to take a quality probiotic supplement that provides a diverse and broad spectrum bacterial count.

As you can see, the regular use of probiotics can feed our immune systems as well as greatly alleviate the body’s responses that cause inflammatory intestinal conditions. Supplementing with probiotics can give health and hope. By making changes today, you can start strengthening your immune system and have a healthier gut.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Probiotics for Children

Probiotics support vitality by improving digestive health, assisting nutrient absorption and helping guard against illness and infection. In recent years, particular attention has been paid to the benefits children receive from probiotics, through either supplements or fermented food and drink. Allergies, digestive problems, colic and acne are all often traced to gut dysbiosis and can be improved through probiotic supplementation. The following will discuss what parents should consider when choosing a dependable probiotic for their children.

Specific Uses
Certain disorders and health problems have been the focus of probiotic research. Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, have been shown to respond best to mixtures of good bacteria rather than single strains. Children’s diarrhea is best treated by either Lactobacillus rhamnosus or a mix of strains. Researchers found Lactobacillus reuteri to be best for reducing colic in babies. For replenishment after a course of antibiotics, Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii, Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG work best. Certain strains, such as Lacobacillus casei DN-114001, support immunity against colds and respiratory illness.

Single Strains or Mixtures?
Raw, naturally fermented foods and drinks contain numerous species of good bacteria, but many probiotic supplements contain single strains. The most commonly supplemented probiotics are also among the most heavily researched, making supplements containing them a good bet for positive results. Many experts, however, believe that a mixture of strains is likely to produce superior benefits. As a diverse colony, the combined power of similar positive strains provides additional protection against bad gut bacteria and illness. For this reason, seek out a quality probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria.

Freshness and Shelf-Life
Some probiotic supplements require refrigeration and will become ineffective if left out at room temperature for long periods. To ensure freshness at time of purchase, shoppers should look for storage information on the packaging of probiotic supplements to make sure that storage requirements have been met at the store. Online retailers of probiotics should inform consumers clearly about products’ refrigeration requirements. For ease of use, many consumers prefer probiotics that can be stored at room temperature as these supplements can be bought online without concerns about spoilage during transport.

Ease of Use
When children take supplements, ease of use is essential to consider. Because capsules are unbearable for some kids, liquid supplements are preferable. Liquid probiotics can be mixed with juice or other beverages to mask the taste, making them undetectable to your child.

All-Natural Products
Some products combine diverse colonies of good bacteria with a raw, fermented substrate for dramatic benefits. Pro EM•1 Probiotic is an example of this, supplying individuals with diverse probiotics and a wide range of natural vitamins and enzymes in liquid form. Many children with gut issues suffer from certain food intolerance; this makes it important to choose a supplement free of common food allergens, such as wheat, gluten, dairy, nuts and soy.

With the recent FDA ban on BPA in packaging for children's consumable products, be mindful of finding a probiotic that is packaged in a BPA-free bottle. PET bottles (the same type of bottle as a soda bottle) are BPA-free. Glass is also BPA-free.

Comprehensive Formula
As with any type of supplement, certain products will be more reliable than others for improving children’s health. A wholesome, comprehensive probiotic contributes to optimal health with non-genetically modified beneficial bacteria, toxin-removing phototrophic bacteria and lack of preservatives or animal products. To support the probiotic population in a child’s gut, the child’s diet should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as beneficial bacteria thrive on soluble fiber. At the same time, high-sugar foods should be restricted, as simple carbohydrates are preferred by harmful yeasts that will crowd out beneficial microorganisms if allowed to proliferate. In addition, kids should drink plenty of purified water to keep the intestines well-hydrated, and exercise should be performed regularly to support blood flow to the intestines. With the combination of a high-quality, comprehensive probiotic supplement and a wholesome lifestyle, children can enjoy improved immunity, better mood and stronger physical and mental development.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The (Amazing) Influence Gut Flora Has Over Your Health

Recent science publications (Science Daily, Nutrition in Clinical Practice, etc.) have highlighted the importance of certain microorganisms or “gut flora” to an individual’s overall health. These tiny creatures affect everything from the absorption of nutrients, to brain development & function, to our immune system & weight and even to our energy levels. In fact, these studies have linked certain nutrition-related illnesses – both malnutrition and obesity – to the imbalance of gut flora, suggesting that a healthy gut ecosystem not only improves life quality, but can also stave off disease.

What is Gut Flora?
Gut flora refers to the microbes that dwell in the human digestive system. There are both beneficial gut flora and abnormal flora, and it is ideal to keep an 85:15% breakdown between the two. Good health depends on a digestive environment that fosters the good flora and keeps the abnormal flora in check. The beneficial gut flora combat pathogens and toxins, while also aiding in the breakdown of organic materials, allowing the human body to absorb nutrients and produce energy.

There are three major forms of gut flora, Eukarya, Bacteria, and Achaea, but these microbes are surprisingly diverse and complex… and it is nothing less than amazing how the human body interacts with these tiny beneficial gut organisms. From as early as birth, these microbes influence both mental and physical development. In fact, studies have found that vaginal communities of microorganisms shift in order to introduce certain beneficial gut flora to the infant as it passes through the birth canal. For this reason, it is believed that some caesarian births may result in a less balanced, troublesome digestive tract that could lead to larger health issues. Likewise, breast milk is thought to help a child’s stomach control abnormal gut flora by introducing beneficial microorganisms in the milk. Studies are currently underway that test a theory that children with imbalanced gut flora have a higher rate of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), dyslexia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If this is the case, it will be clear that our gut flora directly influence our brain development in a very real and profound way. The continued study of our intestinal gut flora will likely have implications to a wide range of neurological, psychological, and autoimmune disorders, and may be particularly important in regards to childhood health and pregnancy.

How do you foster a good gut flora ecosystem?
There are several simple ways you can promote a balance gut flora environment for good health.

  • Regularly “re-seed” you guts flora by consuming fermented or cultured foods such as yogurts and fermented vegetables (kimchee, pickles, etc.) Consider fermenting your own foods at home in order to eliminate unwanted preservatives.
  • Enhance your gut flora ecosystem with a daily serving of a high quality gluten free probiotic.
  • Consume whole foods and avoid or eliminate the consumption of processed foods.
  • Do not take antibiotics unless strongly urged by your physician.
  • If you are pregnant, place a high rate of importance on your digestive health and incorporate a gentle prenatal probiotic cleanse into your daily regimen.