Probiotics: types to look for, what they do and how to make them yourself

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.

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What Antibiotics Do to Gut Flora

Aminoglycosides are antibiotics which do a lot of damage to good bacteria colonies in the gut. If they are prescribed over a long time, they will completely destroy the good bacteria under their attack, leaving bad bacteria free to reign.

Antifungal antibiotics                                                                                                                                                                            Combinations of antibiotics such as these are more dangerous than single ones. They leave the gut full of empty pockets for pathogenic bacteria to install themselves in.

Penicillins let bacteria found usually only in the bowel to move into the intestines, predisposing you digestive problems such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Tetracyclines are often given to teenagers often over the period of a few years. They change protein structures in mucous membranes making the gut wall vulnerable to the invasion of dangerous microbes whilst informing the immune system that it needs to attack these proteins. So these antibiotics are capable of initiating an auto-immune reaction in the body.

Even when the antibiotics have been prescribed for a short time, it takes beneficial bacteria a long time to recover. Time to fix your gut?

Gluten Free Casein Free Diet (GFCG)

GFCF (Gluten Free Casein Free) Diet

Avoid:

Wheat and gluten (protein found in grains)- this includes barley, oats, rye,spelt. Gluten-free wheat products are also to be avoided if not organic.

Processed carbohydrates containing gluten (Children with Autism need to follow a more structured elimination of food types, read Gut and Psychology Syndrome for more information).

All starch and complex carbohydrates must be removed – carbohydrates especially starch and refined sugars feed pathogens in the gut as well as elsewhere in the body. Removing these foods restricts the activity of these pathogens. This means no grains or starchy vegetables. Even healthy people have trouble digesting starch, so it often goes undigested, providing food for bad bacteria, so that they may thrive and fill the gut with the toxins they produce; which then leak into the blood. The reason we crave these processed carbohydrates is that we have abnormal gut flora, which needs them to survive. Click here for a list of non-starchy vegetables which you can still eat whilst on this diet.

Only eat ripe fruit – fruit especially when unripe contains sucrose – a double sugar, which cannot be absorbed without the enterocytes splitting them up into monosugars; something they are unable to do when gut flora is abnormal. Instead it will become food for pathogenic bacteria.

Once the gut has been healed, it should be OK to go back to wheat and gluten in moderation. If you have MS dairy should be avoided as a general rule anyway.

Do not worry about cutting out fibre from carbohydrates; fruit and vegetables provide a much better source of fibre that is less harmful to an impaired digestive system.

It is also sensible to follow the anti-Candida diet and the GAPS diet to heal your gut and stop any further problems from developing in your digestive system; the GFCF diet alone will not fix everything on its own.

Fiber to Cure Disease

Before I was diagnosed with MS, I suffered quite badly from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I remember being in pain for hours after eating, especially after dinner, for about a year. I didn’t understand why I was having so much trouble, as I thought I ate quite well, relatively speaking; vegetables as well as a lot of fruit. It was getting really bad. I was living in Mexico at the time and as well as the fruit and veg, eating quite a lot of meat and cheese. Cheese was something which I had never liked (I know, there are not many of us cheese haters out there!) but found a taste for when melted on pizza, in vampiros (the most delicious Mexican taco type snack), quesadillas (melted cheese in tortilla). I also ate a lot of greasy delicious Mexican food, a lot more fat basically, than my body had ever been subjected to before.

On a visit back to the UK I had an endoscopy to see if there was anything serious going on; after which I was diagnosed with IBS and told to use peppermint tea and oil to ease symptoms. I had realised that perhaps the heavy food I was eating was not so good for me, but didn’t really make a change to my diet until I was diagnosed with MS. (Saturated fats need to be reduced drastically in MS to reduce the risk of deterioration, I am also dairy intolerant and allergies are important to avoid if you have MS – see foods to avoid and other diet pages on this blog for more info.) A friend of mine had been on an alternative MS therapy which involved diet and exercise and so I immediately started his diet, took up yoga again as well as swimming, which I had not done for years!

A few months into my MS, after a yoga class my yoga teacher gave us a talk about the digestive system and how problems begun there and spread to other areas of the body. I approached her after the class to ask further questions and she told me about an amazing alternative doctor who gave medical talks and examinations for free every Wednesday evening in Guadalajara, where I was living. So, one Wednesday I went along to see if he had anything to say that could help. He gave you medical advice in front of his thirty or more followers who gathered in a room at his sister’s house once a week. First he explained that all illnesses started in the head – with the way we think. Through constant stress, self criticism, depression and so on, our bodies eventually develop problems with the digestive system. After which, more serious problems took place elsewhere in the body. In my case, the nervous system. His reasoning seemed very logical to me, and on dealing with my case directly he showed me, and his loyal followers the external signs which pointed to disease, as well as talking me through events in my past that may have triggered the problems in my head, how they then manifested themselves in my IBS and eventually MS. This doctor’s answer was “stop taking the steroids and fix the problems in your head”. This was the push I had been waiting for; already suffering from horrible Interferon side effects and having already decided to stop taking them.

As for the problem with the way we think, the thing that actually helped me make a big positive change was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. However, I think that diet is also an extremely important part of the curing process and one you must consider in dealing with MS.

A problem that most of us have with the digestion of food is the elimination of what our body does not need: “poor bowel management lies at the root of most people’s health problems.” Dr Bernard Jensen (Green for Life – Victoria Boutenko)

Ideally we should have bowel movements at least twice a day. Who can say that they go as regularly as that? The toxins that build up in the colon come from so many sources. They build up from dust in the air, and food we have not digested properly, as well as metals and pollutants that we ingest. They also come from our dead cells: “70-100 pounds of dead cells per year, or more, should be passing out of our system. If they don’t [they] can be one of the most toxic kinds of waste because they begin to rot right away” (Green for Life – Victoria Boutenko). Boutenko explains that when your body cannot eliminate the way it is supposed to, it does so less efficiently through the skin which becomes rough and bumpy, through mucus in our eyes, throat and nose.

It is impossible to eliminate without fiber – this is missing from a lot of people’s diets. There are two types of fiber – soluble (pectin in apples, guar gums in chia seeds, oatmeal, legumes and mangos*) and insoluble (greens, peels, nuts, seeds, beans skins of grain) Soluble fiber sticks to cholesterol in the small intenstines to take it out of the body. Insoluble fiber is able to absorb much more toxin than its own volume and remove it from the body. Linseed is both soluable and insoluble fiber: I recommend adding it to you diet, especially if you have MS. It is important to ensure that you are giving your body the right amount. Victoria Boutenko has come to the conclusion that 50 to 70 grams a day or more are what we need, but that we shouldn’t suddenly increase it drastically, but gradually.

Fiber is magical, it can:

fight diabetes, high cholesterol, bowel problems, excess estrogen

prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gallstones ulcers, stabilise blood-sugar levels

maintain the immune system, heart health, promote intestinal bacteria, help with weight loss

*The soluble fibers mentioned slow the release of sugar in food, reducing the risk of diabetes.