It is well-known that probiotics are very effective in the treatment of many digestive disorders. They can really help people with IBS, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis to name a few; when used in conjunction with a diet to heal the gut.
Probiotics are also helpful to people with allergies, who would also benefit from healing a leaky gut. Auto-immune conditions like MS often start off with digestive problems such as the ones mentioned above, and would be greatly helped by taking probiotics and following a diet to heal a leaky gut.
A good probiotic is one containing many different species of beneficial bacteria, as many as possible really; to resemble the ones the human gut should have. As different types of these good bacteria have different strengths and weaknesses, it is important to have a mixture to get the most out of them. Also aim for a mixture of strains from different groups rather than just one. Dr Campbell suggests a combination such as lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and soil bacteria rather than strains of lactobacilli alone. Look for a high concentration of bacteria per gram – so a minimum of 8 billion bacterial cells for every gram. Strength and bacterial composition of probiotics should be tested for by their manufacturer and results should be published. Let’s have a look at the different bacteria and what they do for us:
Lactobacilli produce lactic acid. They are found in many areas of the body but mostly in the stomach and intestines (of a healthy person) and help with the renewal process of cells in the gut, in this way they keep the gut lining healthy and stop it from leaking. They are the main protectors of the areas in which they are found.
Bifidobacteria found in big numbers in the human bowel, lower intestines, genital area and vagina. These are the most numerous bacteria in the gut of healthy babies. They provide nourishment for the body by synthesising amino acids, proteins, many B vitamins as well as aiding the body to absorb iron and vitamin D. They also engage the immune system to protect the gut from pathogens.
Saccharomyces boulardii was discovered by H.Boulard who saw that in China diarrhoea was treated with an extract from lychee. It is also now seen as useful in the treatment of Candida.
Escherichia coli/ E.coli are found in the lower parts of the intestines and bowel when they are found elsewhere there is a problem with the ecology of the gut. These bacteria have numerous roles including the digestion of lactose, the production of vitamins and amino acids, working against pathogenic microbes and insuring their presence is the best way to defend the body against pathogenic bacteria of the same family, as Alfred Nissle discovered in 1917 when investigating why some soldiers did not get typhoid fever during World War One when so many did.
Enterococcus faecium/ Streptococcus faecalis produce hydrogen peroxide in the bowel to lower the pH in order to control pathogens. They also ferment carbohydrates and break down proteins. Like Saccharomyces boulardii they are useful in treating diarrhoea.
Bacillus subtilis/ soil bacteria was found to protect from dysentery and typhoid. It is resistant to most antibiotics, stomach acid as well as temperature changes. It also has strong immune-stimulating properties and is very helpful for allergies and autoimmune disorders. These microbes do not remain in the gut, they pass through it and do work on their way. Because we no longer drink dirty water containing soil we are in need of these bacteria, they probably keep the gut clean, as they are used elsewhere to break down rotting matter. According to Dr Campbell, probiotics using this bacteria are the most effective ones available.
When you start taking a probiotic of good strength, you will have symptoms caused by the toxins released from pathogenic bacteria as they are destroyed. These will be characteristic of your illness and are temporary. That is why it is sensible to start slowly, until the symptoms are felt, that dose will be correct for you, do not increase further once you get there. The dosage should be taken for at least six months, so that normal gut flora can re-establish itself. It is important to cut out processed carbohydrates and sugar at this time so that your intestinal flora can be repaired, otherwise you will continue to feed the pathogenic bacteria. Once you have taken the probiotic for six months, you can reduce it to a maintenance level and take at this dose for a few years. You need to reduce the dosage slowly, just as you increased it. It is important to keep taking a maintenance dose because we do not get the bacteria we used to through water and food now that we live in a ‘civilised’ society. It is probably necessary to keep taking the probiotic indefinitely if you have MS or another GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) condition. Most probiotic supplements do not settle on the gut wall, that is why we must continue to take them. Birth is the only real chance in life we have to populate our gut with healthy intestinal flora. Once this chance has passed, probiotics are the only option.
General guidelines suggest adults should take 15-20 billion bacterial cells of probiotic daily. The figures are much lower for children – consult a qualified practitioner for help with doses for children and babies. The stomach acidity of GAPS people is usually low and so cannot destroy the good bacteria taken, as some people worry it might. It is sensible not to take any risks though, and to take your probiotic powder with food, when stomach acid is attached to particles of food. Even bacteria which does not survive the stomach acid will be helpful to you because even when dead their cell walls contain substances which stimulate an immune response. They also remove toxins from the body by absorbing them. It is best to get a powder, as capsules are difficult to digest for those with digestive disorders, and often just pass through the system and become a burden for the liver like other supplements. Even people without severe digestive problems will benefit from supplementing their diet with probiotics.
The good news is that we can make our own probiotic relatively cheaply (cheaper than commercially available ones anyway!). For thousands of years people have been eating fermented foods to provide the body with probiotic bacteria. The process of fermenting food not only makes it very tasty; it also makes it more nutritious whilst also acting as a way to preserve it. This is what people did before refrigerators were invented.
Fermented foods are a natural probiotic you can make cheaply at home, and are also a good way to store vegetables for a long period of time. Click here for how to ferment foods and get started with your home-made probiotic today! Dr Natasha Campbell recommends using home-made probiotics as your maintainance dose of probiotic once your therapeutic dosage time of at least six months has come to an end.