TAG | Probiotics
In some parts of the country (especially here in Florida where I live) allergy season is in full swing. So many people are suffering with congested sinuses, stuffy noses, and feeling like, well, not so great. Over 11 million people in the United States are diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, or hay fever—what most people simply call allergies—each year. I am sure there are many more people who do not get officially diagnosed, adding to this staggering number.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people taking the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei daily for five weeks in addition to their usual allergy medication had improved quality of life along with improved ocular symptoms (less watery, itchy, red, and swollen eyes). Improvement in specific nasal symptoms was not found, however.
“Probiotic foods or food supplements seem to be popular and widely used by subjects suffering from allergic rhinitis, however, a study under real-life conditions and in subjects receiving a medicinal treatment was needed,” noted the researchers. While they did find a benefit of the probiotic, more studies will be needed to determine whether the addition of other strains will increase the effect.
A number of probiotic strains have already been studied in people with allergic rhinitis, but most of them have been single strain studies with mixed results. Researchers have begun to look at multiple strain formulas for allergies, but we are still in the early stages of research. My hunch is that the multi-strain probiotic formulas will be more effective because they target a wider range of immune functions. I will keep you posted as I learn more.
April is IBS Awareness Month—a time for individuals and communities across the country to spread awareness about irritable bowel syndrome and the millions of Americans it affects every day. Coast to coast, activities and events are in the works to help people understand this debilitating disorder, its signs and symptoms, and how it is diagnosed and treated.
Quick Facts about IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million Americans every day. Although its cause is still unknown, many experts believe the symptoms of IBS—which include abdominal pain and bloating along with diarrhea, constipation or both—are closely linked to the interaction between the gut, brain, and central nervous system. (It’s possible the nerves along the gut alter normal pain perception so that the bowel becomes oversensitive to normal stimuli.)
If you or someone you know is living with IBS, here are 9 natural solutions to help you take the first steps toward better bowel health:
1. Add More Fiber. In addition to its role in heart health and weight management, fiber supports healthy digestive function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may contribute to IBS symptoms.
2. Limit Fatty Foods. Eating foods that are high in fat such as fried foods and certain meats may contribute to IBS. Be sure to consume these types of foods in moderation.
3. Cut Back on Caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms.
4. Avoid Foods High in Sulfur. Some foods that are healthy—including vegetables such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions and broccoli—are high in sulfur and may actually trigger IBS symptoms. Opt for low-sulfur veggies such as carrots or green beans.
5. You May Have a Food Sensitivity. Some people have IBS because they are dealing with an underlying food sensitivity. Gluten and dairy are the two most common foods to which a sensitivity may develop. A gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet, or both can help to improve IBS symptoms in these people.
6. Show Your Digestive Tract a Little TLC. Many herbs and nutraceuticals such as marshmallow root, slippery elm, and the amino acid L-glutamine can help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.
7. Balance with Probiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in the gut that work to maintain a balanced internal environment and promote optimal digestion and immune health.
8. Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces every day) will help flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may be causing IBS symptoms.
9. Try Colon Hydrotherapy. IBS sufferers—especially those with severe symptoms—may find that natural colon hydrotherapy can help cleanse the system and improve digestive health and elimination.
Learn More about IBS with the New Mobile App!
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), which first designated April as IBS Awareness Month back in 1997, just launched a new mobile app (for iOS and Android platforms) to help people learn more about IBS, its symptoms and treatment options. The free app is called IBS Info and offers real-time information from experts in the gastrointestinal field to promote awareness and education about irritable bowel syndrome. Be sure to check it out!
The more we study and understand, the closer we come to helping millions of IBS sufferers live healthier, happier lives—so help me spread the word this month and all year long!
No, it isn’t the latest joke, though chances are you have heard the story in the news. But let me just clear something up: there is no actual poop in a new type of “gourmet” sausage developed recently by scientists in Spain—just a beneficial strain of bacteria commonly found in (you guessed it!) baby poop.
For those of us with the inside scoop on poop, it actually makes perfect sense. Food microbiologist and co-author of the study Anna Jofré explained in a recent interview that the two kinds of bacteria used most often in probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are far more abundant in infant poop than in adult excrement. Not only that, said Jofré, but they are easy to obtain.
Jofré and her colleagues at the Institute for Research and Technology in Food and Agriculture collected 43 infant fecal samples, from which they isolated three strains of beneficial bacteria. They used those bacteria to create several batches of sausage, and what they found was pretty interesting.
Of the three strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus—a strain commonly found in yogurt and probiotic supplements—became the dominant strain, multiplying to levels of 100 million cells per gram, enough to begin to promote health benefits said Jofré and her team. And as for the taste? “We ate them, and they tasted very good,” said Jofré. (They were even a bit healthier than most types of sausage made in the region, with less fat and salt.)
Of course, right about now you may be asking… Why make sausage with baby poop bacteria in the first place? Well, according to Jofré, probiotic fermented sausages will offer consumers yet another way to include probiotics in their diet, especially for those who are lactose intolerant and can’t eat dairy products.
For more than a decade our team at ReNew Life has been formulating the purest, most effective natural supplements with the health and well-being of our customers in mind—which is why I couldn’t be more excited about this recent award!
The ReNew Life Ultimate Flora line of high-potency probiotics was named the top-rated probiotic brand for customer satisfaction, based on responses from more than 10,000 supplement users who took part in the 2014 ConsumerLab.com Survey of Vitamin and Supplement Users. Survey participants reported their satisfaction with more than 1,600 brands from nearly 800 merchants.
Ultimate Flora once-daily probiotics set the benchmark for quality, purity and potency. Each multibillion-count formula features multiple strains of beneficial bacteria; delayed-release capsules for targeted delivery; and potency guaranteed through expiration to provide superior natural support for better digestion and immune health.‡
In case you aren’t familiar with ConsumerLab.com, they are the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and healthcare professionals identify the best-quality health and nutrition products. Each year they ask their newsletter subscribers to take part in a survey about the vitamins and supplements they use, and the information is compiled in a comprehensive report. (More information at www.consumerlab.com/survey2014.)
Join me in congratulating ReNew Life and Ultimate Flora Probiotics!
‡This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Although probiotics reside in the gut, their effects reach far beyond the digestive tract. The connection between heart and gut health is being investigated, particularly in reference to the use of probiotics for the reduction of LDL cholesterol. In a recent article published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, clinical trials evaluating the effects of probiotics on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease were reviewed.1 Twenty-six clinical studies and two meta-analyses were reviewed, identifying four strains of probiotics effective for lowering cholesterol: Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242, Enterococcus faecium, and the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus La5 and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12, in addition to two synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) combinations: Lactobacillus acidophilus CHO-220 plus inulin and a mix of Lactobacillus acidophilus strains plus fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS).
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. One in every three deaths in the United States is the result of cardiovascular disease, and it is rapidly increasing in low- and middle-income countries around the world. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is an under-practiced yet crucial aspect of treating and preventing CVD. In addition to a healthy diet, maintenance of healthy body weight, regular exercise, avoidance of tobacco products, and routine medical checkups, the use of certain supplements has the potential to decrease cardiovascular risk factors. Fish oils, phytosterols, and soluble fibers are currently among those most known for beneficially affecting blood lipids. As it turns out, probiotics could be added to that prestigious list.
The study of beneficial bacteria for heart health actually begin in the 1960s when researchers investigated the link between fermented milk and low cholesterol levels and heart disease rates in the Maasai and Samburu tribes of Africa, both of which consumed a diet high in saturated fats via dairy and beef.2,3 Since then, many studies have looked at the effects of probiotics on lowering LDL cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Of the four probiotic strains and two synbiotic combinations studied, L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 has the most robust evidence. Two randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel arm, multicenter studies in both yogurt (2.8 billion CFU daily)4 and capsules (4 billion CFU daily)5 found that the probiotic reduced total and LDL-cholesterol when compared to placebo. L. reuteri also had beneficial effects on lowering hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein) and fibrinogen levels, two more biomarkers of CVD health, and major markers of overall systemic inflammation as well.
Although it is known that probiotics have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, it is not entirely known how they work. The review article proposes several mechanisms for how probiotics may reduce circulating cholesterol levels:
- “Binding of cholesterol by the cellular surfaces and membranes of the probiotics.
- Assimilation of cholesterol particles into growing probiotic cells.
- Microbial deconjugation of bile via bile salt hydrolase, resulting in increased fecal excretion of deconjugated bile salts with a compensatory increase in the use of cholesterol to produce new bile acids.
- Short-chain fatty acid production from fermentation of carbohydrate, leading to decreased levels of blood lipids and reduced production of endogenous cholesterol by the liver.
- A reduction in cholesterol absorption, perhaps through bile salt hydrolase activity and deconjugation of biliary salts in the small intestine.”
Statin drugs are widely prescribed for their cholesterol-lowering effects, but they come with side effects that many find intolerable. Probiotics, in addition to the healthy lifestyle habits mentioned above, are an excellent natural option with additional digestive and immune health benefits.
- DiRienzo DB, “Effect of probiotics on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease: implications for heart-healthy diets.” Nutr Rev. 2014 Jan;72(1):18-29.
- Shaper AG, Jones JW, Jones M, “Serum lipids in three nomadic tribes of Northern Kenya.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1963 Sep;13:135-46.
- Mann GV, “Studies of a surfactant and cholesteremia in the Maasai.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1974 May;27(5):464-9.
- Jones ML, Martoni CJ, and Prakash S, “Cholesterol lowering and inhibition of sterol absorption by Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242: a randomized controlled trial.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;66(11):1234-41.
- Jones ML, Martoni CJ, Tamber S, et al., “Evaluation of safety and tolerance of microencapsulated Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 in a yogurt formulation: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.” Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jun;50(6):2216-23.
Leonard Smith, MD
Dr. Leonard Smith is a prominent Board-Certified, general, gastrointestinal and vascular surgeon who had a successful private practice for 25 years. In addition to his active surgery practice, he also incorporated lifestyle, diet, supplementation, exercise, detoxification, and stress management into many of the therapies he would prescribe. Many of his patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other serious illnesses did so well under his treatment regimes that he began to devote most of his career to foundational health care and preventive medicine.
Even the word parasites is unpleasant, but worse is what they can do in your gut—so listen up! Although I’ve talked about parasites before, I wanted to give you a quick refresher course. A balanced digestive environment is essential to your overall health, but there will always be organisms trying to move in and upset that balance. And when parasites move in, they can compromise immune health and your good digestion.
Just What Is a Parasite?
A parasite is an organism that lives by feeding upon another organism. Parasites living in the human body feed on our cells, our energy, our blood, the food we eat and even the supplements we take. There are several types of parasites: protozoa are single-celled organisms that are only visible under a microscope, while worms come in all different sizes, from threadworms measuring less than a centimeter to tapeworms that can grow up to 12 meters in length!
Parasites Can Cause That?
Take a look at the list of symptoms below. Do any of them sound familiar?
- Occasional diarrhea or constipation
- Gas, bloating and/or cramps
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Persistent skin problems
- Insomnia/disturbed sleep
- Muscle cramps
- Teeth grinding
- Post-nasal drip
- Sugar cravings
- Rectal itching
- Brain fog
- Pain in the umbilicus
5 Simple Steps to a Balanced Digestive Environment
A buildup of toxins and waste material in the colon increases your risk of parasites, which is why the right diet and nutrition are essential. Here are five simple steps to promote a healthy internal balance:
1. Eat plenty of fresh, non-starchy vegetables, lean meats and legumes, and avoid carbohydrates, sugar and starchy vegetables.
2. Get at least 35 grams of fiber each day to help stimulate the muscular contractions of the colon (peristalsis) that remove the contamination on which parasites thrive.
3. Consider an internal cleansing program to promote a healthy balance of intestinal microbes.
4. Maintain a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria with daily probiotics.
5. Supplement with enzymes and hydrochloric acid to enhance digestion and help deter parasites in the stomach.
In addition to their role in supporting digestive and immune health, scientists have been looking at the link between probiotics and weight loss—and a new study out of Canada shows these good bacteria may indeed help us shed those extra pounds and keep them off.
Researchers from the Université Laval in Quebec recently teamed up with the food and beverage company Nestlé to dig deeper into how probiotics may help us stay slim by influencing the bacteria in our digestive tracts. They followed 125 obese but otherwise healthy adults for a period six months, half of whom received two pills daily of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus while the others received a placebo. For the first three months of the study, participants followed a calorie-restricted weight loss plan, but the remainder of the study was considered a “weight maintenance” period, during which participants still followed a diet plan but the calorie restrictions were lifted.
While there were no significant changes noted in the men, the women receiving the probiotics lost more weight—nearly twice as much—and more fat mass than those receiving the placebo. In addition, they showed a significant drop (25%) in the levels of leptin in their blood (a hormone closely linked to metabolism and appetite control) as well as a reduction in the number of Lachnospiraceae bacteria in the gut. In studies, this “superfamily” of bacteria has been linked to obesity.
The idea that probiotics can help us lose weight and stay slim is not a new one—several other studies have looked at the link between obesity and gut bacteria, including one study in mice that showed obese mice had a decidedly different bacterial environment than lean mice, and that transplanting specific bacteria from the lean to the obese mice actually resulted in the recipients eating less, losing weight, and storing less fat in their bodies.
Adding More Probiotics to Your Diet
Certain foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese contain probiotics, along with fermented foods like kefir (a fermented milk drink), pickled or fermented vegetables, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut. However, because some foods often don’t contain enough probiotic cultures or a variety of strains, many experts recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement to reap the full benefits of probiotics. Look for a high-potency, billion-count daily formula with at least 10 different strains that include clinically studied bacteria and delayed-release capsules for targeted delivery. The amount of live cultures should also be guaranteed through the expiration date, and not just at the time of manufacture.
A multi-strain probiotic has been found to reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms in hospitalized patients taking antibiotics according to a recent study published in the journal Vaccine. The formulation contained four strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and was taken daily up to seven days after the final antibiotic dosage.
Those patients taking a higher dosage of probiotics (17 billion CFUs daily) were at decreased risk of AAD and also experienced less fever, abdominal pain, and bloating, as well as had a decreased number of liquid stools and duration of diarrhea when compared to those receiving low-dose probiotics (4 billion CFUs daily). And the low-dose group still fared better than those patients receiving only placebo. “The results indicate that the higher tested dose is more efficacious than they lower lose in reducing AAD symptoms, duration, and incidence in a hospital setting,” noted the researchers.
Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is one of the conditions most benefitted by probiotic supplementation, according to studies. Because antibiotics disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut (remember that the word antibiotics means “against life” and probiotics means “for life”), digestive disruptions often occur along with antibiotic use. By replenishing beneficial probiotic bacteria during antibiotic use, these digestive disruptions can be avoided, as illustrated by this study.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, it would be wise to take probiotics as well. Just remember to take them at a different time of day than the antibiotics so that their chance of survival is increased.
When it comes to nutrition and digestive care, I love to meet others who share my enthusiasm for helping people live healthier every day—and one of those people is author and nutritionist Lauren Slayton.
Lauren is the founder of New York City-based Foodtrainers™ and her new book, The Little Book of Thin, will make you think twice about diving into the next fad diet by revealing the truth about why most food plans fall short. And guess what? Lauren is as passionate as I am about probiotics—especially when talking about the link between intestinal bacteria and sugar cravings.
In Chapter Five, aptly titled The Witching Hour, Lauren talks about those pesky late afternoon cravings (the sweet ones in particular) and explains that fermented foods can increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut, which actually helps to enhance mood and reduce cravings. She recommends adding more of these foods to the diet, but when supply is short? Check out her advice on page 59:
“Supplements may be a good alternative if you don’t have access to fermented foods or want a backup plan,” says Lauren. She includes probiotics in her list of Food First-Aid Kit Essentials (see pages 123 & 124) and says to look for a number greater than 20 billion live cultures on the label. She also recommends probiotics for travel-related “tummy turbulence.”
Of course, weight loss is about more than just probiotics, but having the right tools is big part of being successful—and those tools can help you overcome the challenges along the way. The key to living thintastically ever after, says Lauren, is planning ahead and being prepared for the daily obstacles that can thwart your weight loss efforts. “If nutrition knowledge equaled weight loss, we would all be thin. We know what to eat until life gets in the way.” So true!
Pick up your copy of The Little Book of Thin by Lauren Slayton, MS, RD today, and be sure to add a probiotic supplement to your Food First-Aid Kit!
The gut bacteria composition of people at risk for colorectal cancer differs from that of healthy people, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.1 Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine analyzed stool samples from 141 patients—47 of which had colorectal cancer—and found lower bacterial diversity in patients with colon cancer.
Bacterial diversity is the hallmark of a healthy gut. The more diverse the gut bacteria, the less likely potential pathogens can gain the upper hand and lead to infection. This study suggests that lower gut diversity may also lead to increases in certain bacteria and decreases in others; colon cancer patients had higher levels of Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas bacteria than did healthy subjects. Fusobacterium has been found to contribute to colitis,2 which involves inflammation of the colon, and both Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas have been linked to periodontal disease,3 which itself has been linked to colon cancer.4 Perhaps based on the latest research, gingival and oral cultures may soon be a preventative biomarker of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Patients with colon cancer were also found to have decreased levels of the Clostridia class of bacteria. You may recognize the name Clostridia because one bacterium from this class—Clostridium difficile—is a major pathogen that can be deadly. Not all Clostridia are harmful, however. One particular Clostridia family (Lachnosporaceae) and one bacterium within this family (Corpococcus) are both known to efficiently ferment dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid well known to be protective of colon cancer due to its nourishing effects on the lining of the colon. In addition to helping feed the cells that line the colon, butyrate enters the cells and prevents damaged cells from becoming cancerous. Also telling, Clostridia have been found to be less abundant in colon tumors when compared to normal adjacent tissue.3
“In conclusion, this survey of the gut microbiota found that colorectal cancer risk was associated with decreased bacterial diversity in feces; depletion of Gram-positive, fiber-fermenting Clostridia; and increased presence of Gram-negative, pro-inflammatory genera Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas,” stated the researchers. “Because of the potentially modifiable nature of the gut bacteria, our findings may have implications for colorectal cancer prevention.”
Maintaining gut balance is crucial for protection against many conditions, digestive or otherwise. Administration of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (fibers that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut) has been found to have a protective effect against colon cancer.6 One main reason probiotics and prebiotics are so beneficial is because they promote increased production of butyrate in the colon, just as the beneficial Clostridia do. Achieving gut balance is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
- Ahn J, Sinha R, Pei Z, et al., “Human gut microbiome and risk of colorectal cancer.” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Dec; online ahead of print.
- Ohkusa T, Okayasu I, Ogihara T, et al., “Induction of experimental ulcerative colitis by Fusobacterium varium isolated from colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis.” Gut. 2003 Jan;52(1):79-83.
- Signat, Rogues C, Poulet P, et al., “Fusobacterium nucleatum in periodontal health and disease.” Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2011;13(2):25-36.
- Ahn J, Segers S, Hayes RB, “Periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis serum antibody levels and orodigestive cancer mortality.” Carcinogenesis. 2012 May;33(5):1055-8.
- Kostic AD, Gevers D, Pedamallu CS, et al., “Genomic analysis identifies association of Fusobacterium with colorectal carcinoma.” Genome Res. 2012 Feb;22(2):292-8.
- Wollowski I, Rechkemmer G, Pool-Zobel BL, “Protective role of probiotics and prebiotics in colon cancer.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):451S-455S.