Probiotics are beneficial microbes that live in our intestines. Coming from the Greek, meaning “for life,” the term probiotic was likely coined as a witty response to the word antibiotic.
The therapeutic use of probiotics began when the benefits of “probiotic therapy” after a course of antibiotic therapy was recognized. Many people mistakenly believe this is the only use of probiotic supplements. Probiotics have many functions in our bodies.
It is now recognized that for optimal health, it is a good idea to take probiotics as a regular addition to our daily supplement program, right along with the other matrix supplements recommended by your doctor.
Since probiotics are essential to the effective use of the nutrients we eat, it follows that they are also essential to our overall health and digestive wellness. Living primarily in the small intestine (referred to as “the gut”), probiotics 1) assist in the digestive process; 2) help to alleviate gastric disorders; 3) eliminate bad breath; 4) prevent yeast infections; 5) lower blood cholesterol; 6) produce some B vitamins and vitamin K; and 7) stimulate the immune system.
Surprisingly, the mass of microorganisms in our intestines can weigh up to 4 pounds – the size of the human liver!
In a way, this mass functions like an organ. It is made up of 400-500 different species of microorganisms, each of which has many types of strains. Although this number may seem very large, only 20 types of microorganisms make up about 75 percent of the total.
Another surprise, throughout the digestive system, their numbers can be as high as 100 trillion. In fact, probiotics outnumber the cells of the human body by as much as 100 to one!!!
This large population is made up of both healthful and harmful species. By weight, there are actually more bad guys.
However, among the many functions of desirable microflora is the job of keeping the undesirables in line. As beneficial bacteria thrive, they help discourage unwanted bacteria and fungi from proliferating out of control. This is important because the proper bacterial balance of the intestines determines whether there is a suitable environment for the wall of the colon or one that constantly initiates it. In turn, this determines how well we absorb our food or whether we develop “leaky gut”.
Looking more closely, we find that intestinal bacteria are not static. They are highly active and constantly in a state of flux.
The following factors favor the growth of harmful bacteria:
• stress, the unchecked consumption of refined or processed foods,
• excessive alcohol, birth control pills, some food additives,
• some cortisone-type drugs, radiation and/or radiation therapy,
• fluoridated and/or chlorinated water, exposure to toxic metals,
• pollutants, and, of course, antibiotic therapy. When the bad guys outnumber the good guys, ill health and accelerated aging are the result.
The overgrowth of potentially dangerous microbes, is a condition called dysbiosis. A prime example of dysbiosis is a Candida albicans infection. In this situation, there have not been enough beneficial bacteria to hold the C. albicans in check. Results can range from a simple vaginal yeast infection to a variety of complaints. Beginning with gastro-intestinal and genitourinary tract problems, these can extend to include allergic reactions, mental-emotional symptoms, and glandular and organ involvement.
(Continued next week)