Probiotics are beneficial microflora found in the intestinal tract. They are responsible for maintaining the crucial balance between the systemic immune system (that of the whole body especially the blood) and the mucosal immune system (that of the gut). One can-not be effective without the other.
With our modern day diet we are constantly at risk of up-setting this balance. If you consider that all probiotics are bacteria and that some of us will persist in eating/drinking foods that contain preservatives that are anti-bacterial, that is, they are added to foods to prevent bacterial growth, then it follows that intestinal flora will be compromised.
Not only that, stress, intestinal infections, anti-biotic use, alcohol, poor diet, aging and pollution of all sorts will also contribute to depleting intestinal flora.
Probiotics will improve the immune system by: normalizing gut microbiology, decreasing gut permeability, eradicating pathogens, enhancing IgA responses, stimulating T cell populations and helping maintain tolerance to food antigens and non pathogenic enteric organisms.
Probiotics also aid digestion and produce several vitamins.
Not all probiotics are considered the same. The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as ‘live micro-organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.
Although there are many commercially available strains, only a few have been demonstrated effective in human clinical trials. Even high doses (10 million CFU/day) of some strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria may have no appreciable effect on the immune function whereas another proven strain may have appreciable effect at a much lower dose.
And note that here are many different strains of ‘Lactobacillus’, just because a product has ‘Lactobacillus’ on its label does not necessarily mean it is going to reach your gut or if it does it may not necessarily do lot of good.
Bacteria used to culture yoghurt have demonstrated little clinical benefit and many strains do not survive the transit through the acidity of the stomach.
All probiotic products should be refrigerated and capsules formulated in such a manner that the content is ‘protected’ from the onslaught of stomach acids.
PREbiotics are nutrients which act as a food source for probiotic bacteria. They are generally non-digestible glyconutrients which are fermented in the digestive tract and which then feed the beneficial bacteria.
Examples of this type of product would be those that contain Arabinogalactans (derived from the western Larch tree),or galacto-oligosaccarides (derived from milk sugars).
Below are listed proven strains of Probiotics and their function :
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM strain. Restores gut flora in the small intestine, especially following the use of antibiotics. Also promotes healthy vaginal flora during the use of oral contraceptives.
Anti-inflammatory/analgesic in the gut. Improves resistance to infection.
Improves dairy sensitivities as lactic acid bacteria provide a source of lactase essential for the digestion of lactose.
Contained in: Ultra Flora Immune and Ultra Flora Restore (including dairy free)
Bifidobacteria lactis BI-07 strain. Restores gut flora in the large intestine.
Contained in: Ultra Flora Restore (including dairy free).
Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 strain. Improves gut immunity (by normalising T helper cell responses) and particularly reduces allergies and atopic dermatitis.
Contained in: Ultra Flora Immune
Lactobacillus plantarum 299V strain. Has been shown to bring about a beneficial alteration in gut flora by increasing levels of lactobacilli and decreasing levels of gram negative anaeroabic bacteria.
This helps reduce bloating, flatulence, constipation and/or diarrhoea and mucosal inflammation, particularly in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Also useful in osteoarthritis and other autoimmune conditions.
Also helps improve immune status and can aid in lowering cholesterol.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 strain. Improves immunity by increasing natural killer cell responses and phagocytic activity.
Also helps atopic dermatitis and eczema, particularly in children.
Contained in: Ultra Flora SB Dysbiosis and Ultra Flora Immune
Lactobacillus Reuteri. One of the most common Lactobacillus species and found to strongly inhibit the growth and colonisation of pathogenic organisms in the gastrintestinal tract. Helpful in situations involving gastroenteritis and/or acute diarrhoea. It is also useful as it is resistant to commonly used antibiotics (amoxycillin) and can often be used during a course of antibiotic treatment.
Saccharomyces boulardii. Is a beneficial yeast which does not actually adhere to the intestinal cells but does promote the growth of lactic acid bacteria. It can beffective in cases of dysbiosis, Candida, and diarrhoea especially when associated with antibiotic use.
Contained in: Ultra Flora SB Dysbiosis
Much of this information has been sourced from ‘Health World’ who have done a lot of research in this area and whose products I have found to be very effective.
The improvement in skin conditions, allergies and lessening of inflammatory pain in arthritic patients often has to be seen to be believed!
Products containing these strains may be obtained from this Clinic (if you are living in NZ).