TAG | Probiotics
Scientists are hard at work researching the effects of probiotics and prebiotics on metabolic abnormalities such as those seen in people with diabetes and related conditions. A recent study published in the journal Diabetes highlights the effects of a Lactobacillus probiotic on blood sugar levels. The researchers engineered the Lactobacillus strain to secrete glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). Glucagon-like peptide-1 is normally produced in the small intestine and stimulates insulin release to lower blood glucose levels.
People with diabetes are either unable to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin (insulin resistance) due to an overabundance of insulin produced in response to continually high blood sugar levels (type 2 diabetes).
In an animal model, the GLP-1–producing probiotic induced the conversion of intestinal lining cells so that they would produce insulin, much like beta cells found in the pancreas. “It’s moving the center of glucose control from the pancreas to the upper intestine,” noted John March, PhDlead researcher. The probiotic reduced blood sugar levels in diabetic rats by up to 30 percent.
This proof-of-concept study will need to be followed up with more study to determine dosage, and later in humans to determine efficacy, but it shows promise that we might soon be able to better control blood glucose levels by targeting the site of glucose absorption.
Some evidence in humans does exist, however. For example, a recent human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and also drank a probiotic fermented milk experienced less insulin resistance than those individuals who did not drink the probiotic milk.
Brenda and I have talked at length, here on the blog and also in our books, about the importance of gut bacterial balance to weight management. Having the wrong microbes in your gut predisposes you to weight gain, the topic of our last book, The Skinny Gut Diet. Following this line of thinking, researchers have tested the effects of pre- and probiotics on a range of metabolic abnormalities in humans. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that prebiotics and synbiotics (prebiotics plus probiotics) had a beneficial effect on a range of metabolic abnormalities in overweight or obese adults.1
Remember that prebiotics are compounds—usually soluble fibers—that act as food for the beneficial gut bacteria. They help to increase the levels or activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut.
The analysis included 513 overweight or obese adult participants from thirteen different clinical trials. Nine of the trials administered prebiotics, and four of the trials administered synbiotics. The prebiotics were mostly inulin-type fibers at doses ranging from 5.5 to 21 grams per day, while the synbiotics were composed of a maximum of 2.5 grams of the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharide) along with 270 million to 5 billion cultures of Bifidobacterium, and/or Lactobacillus, and/or Streptococcus probiotic bacteria daily.
Prebiotic supplementation was found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) concentrations, while also reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) in participants with diabetes. Synbiotic supplementation was found to reduce fasting insulin and triglyceride levels.
“The supplementation of prebiotics or synbiotics could take part in the management of obesity-related comorbidities, such as dyslipidemia and insulin resistance.”
Some of the studies reported abdominal symptoms such as bloating, pain, and nausea, but they also noted improvement of symptoms during the supplementation and no withdrawal of participants from the studies, which the researchers believe is due to an adaptation period. Some people have difficulty tolerating inulin-derived prebiotics (including FOS), which are fermented in the digestive tract to a high degree and can trigger symptoms.
The authors of the review did not look at the effects of taking probiotics alone for some reason. Previous studies administering fermented milk and yogurt containing probiotics have found beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.2 Another study found that a high-dose, multistrain probiotic reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, as well as increased HDL-cholesterol in overweight adults.3 More studies are needed to determine the effects of probiotics alone on metabolic abnormalities in overweight and obese adults.
The really good news is whether you take prebiotics, synbiotics, or just probiotics, they all seem to have a significant benefit on mitigating metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and low HDL, along with increased waist size). Metabolic syndrome is now the world’s greatest health challenge.
Since fiber is critical, it would be wise to eat an 80%+ plant-based diet or at least take prebiotics in addition to probiotics. As we have stated many times: Taking beneficial bacteria plus prebiotic fibers leads to major benefits in immune balance by modulating inflammation. In other words, you will have appropriate inflammation if attacked by an infection, but not the inflammation that is the foundation of metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, allergies and most all disease conditions.
Start out slow with these products and increase gradually. If there is too much gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort, stop for a few days and start back on a lower dose. You wouldn’t think of doing a marathon without training, likewise it may take time and persistence to retrain your intestinal response to good bacteria and fiber. Those on an 80 percent or more plant-based diet usually adapt quicker since they are already eating plenty of fiber, the foods preferred by beneficial bacteria.
- Beserra BTS, Fernandes R, do Rosario VA, et al., “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the prebiotics and synbiotics effects on glycaemia, insulin concentrations and lipid parameters in adult patients with overweight or obesity.” Clin Nutr. 2014; online ahead of print.
- Pereira DI and Gibson GR, “Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans.” Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37(4):259-81.
- Rajkumar H, Mahmood N, Kumar M, et al., “Effect of probiotic (VSL#3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:348959.
Only over the last century have humans been exposed to such a huge alteration in the sleep-wake cycle that, previously, was dependent only upon the revolution of the earth in relation to the sun. With the advent of lighting and airplanes, the rhythms of daily life have changed for most of us, and have changed drastically for some of us who engage in shiftwork or who travel great distances on a regular basis via plane.
Might these alterations of daily life have an effect on the microbes living within our guts? And if so, might those alterations play a role on our health? Researchers from the Weismann Institute of Science set out to find the answers to these questions. In a study published in the journal Cell, the scientists determined that yes, disruptions in daily cycles do have an impact on gut bacterial composition and function, and those alterations trigger obesity and other metabolic abnormalities.
Shift workers and frequent flyers, especially those who cross numerous time zones on a regular basis, are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infections. The scientists wondered if gut microbes play a role.
The researchers first used an animal model to determine whether alterations in day-night cycles play a role on gut microbes. They found that changes in day-night cycles, powered by the circadian clock, triggered changes in gut microbial composition and function. Sixty percent of the gut microbe composition was altered (dysbiosis) in those mice who experienced a change in day-night cycle. They determined that these alterations were the result of an altered feeding schedule, and that they could be reversed by reverting to a feeding schedule that mimicked the normal day-night cycle.
Next, the researchers determined that these fluctuations of the gut microbiota triggered metabolic abnormalities such as fat accumulation and glucose intolerance (simply put, high blood sugar), which were ameliorated after administration of antibiotics, confirming the fact that the gut microbe dysbiosis was responsible for the metabolic abnormalities.
To test these effects in humans, they analyzed the gut microbes of two adults over the course of several days and found similar fluctuations in composition and function. Next, they analyzed stool of two adults who took a flight from the United States to Israel. They tested stool before the flight, 24 hours after the flight (jet lag), and two weeks after the flight. They found dysbiosis of the gut microbes under conditions of jet lag when compared to before the flight or two weeks after. Interestingly, they also found an abundance of the Firmicutes bacteria, which have been linked to obesity and metabolic abnormalities in humans.2
To take the study yet one step further, they transplanted stool from the dysbiotic, jet lagged humans into the digestive tracts of mice without gut microbes and found that those mice gained more weight and body fat and had higher blood sugar levels compared to mice that received stool from the individuals before and after being jet lagged.
“Our inner microbial rhythm represents a new therapeutic target that may be exploited in future studies to normalize the microbiota in people whose lifestyle involves frequent alterations in sleep patterns, hopefully to reduce or even prevent their risk of developing obesity and its complications,” noted the researchers. They recommend that “probiotic or antimicrobial therapy may be tested as potential new preventive or therapeutic approaches.”
Another recent study from the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found an increased risk of ulcerative colitis in people who get less than six hours of sleep per night. Ulcerative colitis is a severe digestive disease that involves inflammation of the colon and has been linked to gut bacterial imbalance. The results of this study are not surprising, given what we have just learned about the effects of the sleep-wake cycle.
The adverse health effects of sleep deprivation are widespread. Perhaps one day we will be able to combat these effects by improving our gut microbes without having to alter our poor sleep habits. Time and more research will tell.
- Thaiss CA, Zeevi D, Levy M, et al., “Transkingdom control of microbiota diurnal oscillations promotes metabolic homeostasis.” Cell. 23 Oct 2014;159(3):514–29.
- Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein, et al., “Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity.” Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1022–3.
- Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, et al., “Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice.” Science. 2013 Sep 6;341(6150):1241214.
- Ananthakrishnan AN, Khalili H, Konijeti GG, et al., “Sleep duration affects risk for ulcerative colitis: A prospective cohort study.” Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Apr 26.
The liver is the body’s powerhouse of detoxification. The main function of the liver is to filter blood that comes directly from the intestines to the liver via the portal vein. The health of the liver, therefore, is very much dependent on the health of the gut. The intestinal lining is the main interface between the immune system and the external environment, and the health of the intestinal lining is determined by its balance of bacteria. When gut bacteria are out of balance, the intestinal lining can become damaged. As a result, a higher amount of toxins are able to pass through the lining and into the bloodstream, accessing the immune system as they travel directly to the liver for processing.
Because of the close proximity and intimate relationship between the gut and the liver, conditions that affect the liver are being increasingly linked to gut bacterial disturbances. There are two main ways in which researchers believe that gut bacteria contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), as discussed in a recent review paper published in the Journal of Functional Foods:
- Increased production of ethanol (alcohol) by gut bacteria2
- Increased absorption of bacterial toxins (such as lipopolysaccharide, or LPS)3
These toxins trigger inflammation in the liver via upregulation (increase) of immune function, which initiates the development of NAFLD. These toxins more readily flow to the liver under three main conditions, all known to be contributing risk factors of NAFLD:
- Leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability)
- Small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a form of dysbiosis in which bacteria from the colon back up into the small intestine and overgrow.
- Bacterial translocation, or the migration of bacteria from the gut through the intestinal lining and into the mesenteric lymph nodes, where they trigger inflammation that reaches the liver.
To reverse or prevent the harmful effects of gut bacterial disturbances on the liver, probiotic administration has been suggested. The researchers note the following possible mechanisms by which probiotics can improve NAFLD:
- Decreased inflammation
- Decreased SIBO
- Immune system regulation
- Decreased LPS production
- Decreased bacterial translocation
An important function of probiotics is the protection of the intestinal lining. This function explains the protective functions of these beneficial bacteria. In a human clinical trial, patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)—a condition that often follows NAFLD—received a multi-strain, high-dose probiotic and were found to have significant decreases in inflammation and improvements in levels of the liver enzyme aminotransferase.4 In another uncontrolled trial on the same probiotic formula, NAFLD and alcoholic cirrhosis patients experienced decreased inflammation and lipid peroxidation.5 In another clinical trial, the probiotics Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus supplementation resulted in improved liver aminotransferase levels in people with NAFLD.6
“Probiotics, as safe and effective compounds, have the potential to influence gut barrier functions and immune cell regulations resulting in liver health improvements,” noted the researchers.
Due to the scarcity of treatments available for NAFLD, probiotics are a promising option. More studies are needed to further pinpoint just how the probiotics exert their benefits in people with fatty liver disease.
- Mohammedmoradi S, Javidan A, and Kordi J, “Boom of probiotics: This time non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—A mini review.” J Functional Foods. 2014 Nov;11:30–35.
- Compare D, Coccoli P, Rocco A, et al., “Gut—liver axis: the impact of gut microbiota on non alcoholic fatty liver disease.” Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2012 Jun;22(6):471–6.
- Vanni E and Bugianesi E, “The gut-liver axis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Another pathway to insulin resistance?” Hepatology. 2009 Jun;49(6):1790–2.
- Loquicercio C, De Simone T, Fe3derico A, et al., “Gut-liver axis: a new point of attack to treat chronic liver damage?” Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Aug;97(8):2144–6.
- Loquicercio C, Federico A, Tuccillo C, et al., “Beneficial effects of a probiotic VSL#3 on parameters of liver dysfunction in chronic liver diseases.” J Clin Gastroenterol. 2005 Jul;39(6):540–3.
- Aller R, DeLuis DA, Izaola O, et al., “Effect of a probiotic on liver aminotransferases in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients: a double blind randomized clinical trial.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Sep;15(9):1090–5.
Early life is a critical development period in many respects, and particularly as it relates to gut microbial composition. Even before birth, gut microbes are transferred from mother to fetus, a transfer that continues during birth and later via breast milk. Once established, gut microbes in the infant play a protective role on the infant’s health.
A disturbance of gut microbial balance during early development has been linked to obesity. Epidemiological studies have found that exposure to antibiotics during infancy can lead to weight gain later in life.1-3 Animal studies have confirmed this link and determined that low-dose antibiotics administered after weaning lead to an increased fat mass, altered metabolic hormones, liver metabolism, and microbiota composition.4
A recent study published in the journal Cell followed up this research and confirmed that the increased fat mass was the result of changes in gut bacteria and not to the antibiotic itself.5 Low-dose penicillin was administered either to the mother before birth and then to mouse pups until weaning, or they were administered to pups after weaning. In both cases, alterations in gut bacterial balance occurred, but they fully recovered after antibiotics were stopped. On the other hand, metabolic changes occurred that persisted into adulthood. Increased growth, which included lean mass, fat mass, bone mass, or a combination were induced by the antibiotic exposure. In addition, decreases were found in four main bacteria: Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus arthromitus. Finally, a decrease in intestinal immune responses and impaired intestinal barrier function were found, which may help explain how bacteria might trigger metabolic dysfunction.
To confirm that these metabolic effects were the result of microbial alterations, the researchers transplanted feces from the obese mice into germ-free mice who inherited the altered gut microbes and went on to gain fat mass in a similar manner. They proposed the term microbe-induced obesity (MIO) as a condition of increased fat accumulation that results from alterations in gut bacteria. This study suggests that losses of the four bacteria are detrimental when they occur (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenellaceae, and Candidatus) during the critical developmental period of early infancy.
“These four organisms have either metabolic and/or immunologic interactions, which may contribute to the observed protection from weight gain in the control animals,” noted the researchers.
“This highlights a need for judicious use of antibiotics in clinical practice in early life,” noted Martin Blaser, MD, lead researcher and author of the eye-opening book Missing Microbes. Brenda and I discuss some of his research in our new book, The Skinny Gut Diet.
Microbe-induced obesity in conjunction with diet-induced obesity (because the two go hand in hand as we discuss in our book) are a sure set up for difficult-to-lose weight gain. This was confirmed by feeding a high-fat diet to the mice given low-dose penicillin, in which they found an amplified increase in fat mass. The researchers suggest that restoration of lost microbes after antibiotic use during infancy as a potential strategy to reverse MIO and its related effects.
It is clear to me that pre- and probiotics during pregnancy will prove to be a major way to ensure that the immune system and intestinal lining of the fetus will optimally develop, which may negate the need for antibiotics, for the most part. In the event that there is a need for antibiotics, I think it will soon become standard of care to place everyone who is taking antibiotics on probiotics to maintain microbiome stability. Probiotics can provide high colony count numbers with increased species of commensal bacteria to block the emergence and dominance of pathogenic bacteria that can spell disaster.
Further studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans, and to determine what species are key to the prevention of weight gain in later life.
- Ajslev TA, Andersen CS, Gamborg M, et al., “Childhood overweight after establishment of the gut microbiota: the role of delivery mode, pre-pregnancy weight and early administration of antibiotics.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Apr;35(4):522–9.
- Murphy R, Stewart AW, Braithwaite I, et al., “Antibiotic treatment during infancy and increased body mass index in boys: an international cross-sectional study.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Aug;38(8):1115–9.
- Trasande L, Blustein J, Liu M, et al., “Infant antibiotic exposures and early-life body mass.” Int J Obes (Lond). Jan 2013; 37(1): 16–23.
- Cho I, Yamanishi S, Cox L, et al., “Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity.” Nature. 2012 Aug 30;488(7413):621–6.
- Cox LM, Yamanishi S, Sohn J, et al., “Altering the intestinal microbiota during a critical developmental window has lasting metabolic consequences.” Cell. 2014 Aug 14;158(4):705–21.
One out of every three adults has high blood pressure (hypertension), yet only about half of them have their blood pressure under control. Another one out of three adults has prehypertension, which means that they are on their well on their way to joining the first group. With two-thirds of American adults suffering from hypertension or prehypertension, the search is on for effective ways to lower blood pressure.
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the American Medical Association journal Hypertension found that probiotics are an effective means of lowering blood pressure. The researchers analyzed nine studies that included 543 participants and found that probiotic consumption lowered systolic blood pressure by 3.56 and diastolic blood pressure by 2.38 mm Hg when compared to those adults who did not take probiotics.
The blood pressure lowering effects were even stronger in people taking higher doses of probiotics and when they were taken for a period of at least eight weeks. They also found greater effect from consuming multiple rather than single strains of probiotics. These findings suggest that taking a high-dose, multi-strain probiotic for a longer duration is more effective at lowering blood pressure.
“We believe probiotics might help lower blood pressure by having other positive effects on health, including improving total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol; reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance; and by helping to regulate the hormone system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance,” stated Jing Sun, PhD, lead researcher.
The reduction of blood pressure in this analysis, although modest, is similar to that found in another analysis of salt reduction of 2,000 mg daily. Even modest blood pressure reductions are beneficial, however, and have been associated with a 22 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack, or stroke.
The benefits of probiotics for conditions outside the gut are growing at a rapid pace. This new analysis is excellent evidence that what happens in your gut affects the rest of your body. Keep taking your probiotics.
On average, children in the United States develop six respiratory tract infections each year. Another infection—gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu—accounts for over 1.5 million outpatients visits, 200,000 hospital visits, and about 300 deaths each year. Together, these infections account for a considerable degree of illness in children. If you are a parent, you are familiar with the frequency of these conditions during childhood.
The search continues for therapies that will reduce these childhood infections. A recent review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews highlights a potential answer for children under two.
The authors conclude that the evidence “suggests that preventive use of prebiotics decreases the rate of infections requiring antibiotic therapy in infants and children aged 0–24 months.”
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
The researchers also state that prebiotics may be an effective preventive treatment for decreasing the rate of overall infections in these children. The prebiotics used in the studies include oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), fructans, inulin, and oligofrutose.
Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find studies using prebiotics to prevent infections in children over the age of two. They suggest such studies be undertaken, since older children are commonly introduced to new environments in which they are exposed to acute infections.
I recently blogged about a meta-analysis that found beneficial effects of probiotics for the treatment and prevention of cold and flu in children. Together, these two papers give us strong evidence that gut microbes have a major effect on our children’s immune health both in and out of the digestive system.
When taken together, probiotics and prebiotics pack a powerful punch. There is a synergistic effect between the two. Fortunately, you can eat foods high in the prebiotic inulin. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, and bananas all contain high amounts. A probiotic supplement plus prebiotic foods is a great combination to help maintain a healthy balance bacteria in your gut.
Until recently, it was thought that the bladder—and therefore urine—is sterile, meaning that, in a healthy state, no bacteria live there. But a new study presented by researchers at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology is changing how scientists view the urinary system.
Using an expanded culture technique able to detect bacteria that standard techniques do not, they found that urine from healthy women does, in fact, contain bacteria.
“Doctors have been trained to believe that urine is germ-free,” noted Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, one of the researchers. “These findings challenge that notion, so this research opens the door to exciting new possibilities for patient treatment.”
They found that the bacteria in urine of women with an overactive bladder (OAB) differs from that of healthy women.
“The presence of certain bacteria in women with overactive bladder may contribute to OAB symptoms,” noted lead investigator, Evann Hilt.
Could changing the balance of bacteria in the urinary system improve symptoms of overactive bladder? Scientists will next look at which bacteria are helpful and which are harmful, and whether certain bacteria trigger the development of overactive bladder as well as other urinary tract conditions. With this information, they will better be able to treat this condition. They may find that by altering the bacteria in the urinary system, they can improve symptoms of overactive bladder. There may one day be a probiotic specifically for this condition. I am sure there are many women out there crossing their legs and nodding, yes!
The results of this study are not surprising to me, since I have known for a while that probiotics can have a positive effect on urinary health. The mechanism of this benefit is not fully understood, but it seems to me that it must involve communication between bacteria within the urinary system. I will be interested to see how this research unfolds as scientists further explore the human microbiome. My hunch is that they will find bacteria in more areas of the body they previously thought did not contain microbes.
Malnutrition (severe or moderate acute malnutrition) affects 23 percent of children in developing countries.1 The World Health Organization estimates that malnutrition is the cause of one-third of all child deaths.2 Malnutrition, or inadequate nutrition, manifests most noticeably as delayed growth, but also includes deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and protein.
A recently developed intervention for severe acute malnutrition, known as Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food, is currently being distributed to hundreds of thousands of children in the developing world. Other food interventions, such as a lentil and rice dish called khichuri-halwa, are being utilized. A recent study published in the journal Nature sought to understand whether the development of gut bacteria during infancy was associated with improvements in malnutrition after such interventions in Bangladeshi children.3
The researchers first tested the stool of healthy Bangladeshi children on a monthly basis during the first two years of life to determine the healthy development of gut bacteria. That is, they used these findings as a benchmark of a normally maturing gut bacterial community. After all, the first two to three years of life see some of the biggest changes in gut bacterial composition, and by this age, the gut microbes resemble that of an adult.
Next, they tested the gut bacteria of children with severe and moderate acute malnutrition before, during, and after receiving either the Therapeutic Food or the lentil and rice dish. Before the interventions, gut bacteria was found to be immature—that is, the gut microbes were found were not fully developed as they were in healthy children. After the food interventions, the children’s gut microbiota immaturity was only partially improved—and temporarily, at that. By four months after the interventions had ceased, their gut microbes reverted back to their original, immature state.
The researchers suggest that either a longer food intervention or a different food that more resembles the children’s native diet is needed. They also recommend “next-generation probiotics using gut-derived taxa [groups],” which I believe will have the best impact. What if they isolated the gut microbes from the healthy children and gave them to the malnourished children? Those microbes would take up residence in the children’s guts, especially if the children were also given a food that those bacteria naturally thrive on.
Aside from lack of food, gastrointestinal (GI) infection is another cause of malnutrition. During a GI infection, the immune system is taxed in such a way that a broad range of nutrients are required to fight the pathogenic organism. Let’s not forget that a healthy gut microbiota can help ward off such infections in the first place—and can help improve the body’s nutrient capacity. You see, gut microbes play an important role in the harvest of nutrients from food. They help to break down food so that the body can efficiently absorb the nutrients it needs. When the community of gut microbes is not a healthy one, the ability to absorb nutrients adequately is compromised. When this occurs during infancy along with a lack of food or an infection, malnutrition can be worsened.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of developing a healthy gut balance during infancy. Avoiding medically unnecessary Cesarean sections and antibiotics during pregnancy (and during infancy for baby), breastfeeding for at least one year (more is better), and taking probiotics during and after pregnancy along with eating fermented foods is the best way to set infants up with a healthy balance of gut microbes, both in developing countries and here at home.
1. Lazzerini M, Rubert L, and Pani P, “Specially formulated foods for treating children with moderate acute malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jun 21;6:CD009584.
2. http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/topics/child/malnutrition/en/ Accessed 6/19/2014.
3. Subramanian A, Huq S, Yatsunenko T, et al., “Persistent gut microbiota immaturity in malnourished Bangladeshi children.” Nature. 2014 Jun 4.
Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, have been studied for a number of health conditions, but one of the most exciting benefits of probiotics is their effect on the common cold. A number of studies have looked at probiotic treatment and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections (cold and flu, most notably). A recent systematic review evaluated data from twelve randomized, controlled trials in children and adults and found that those people who had taken Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics experienced fewer days of illness, shorter illness episodes, and fewer days absent from daycare, school, or work when compared to those participants who took a placebo.
“This paper shows that with the addition of live lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to your diet, the duration of upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds) could be shortened,” stated Sarah King, PhD. “Combined with results from a 2011 meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which demonstrated that probiotics can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, the implications of these findings are significant and could translate into cost savings and quality of life improvements.” The economic impact of colds is estimated to cost the United States $40 billion each year, so any reduction in the common cold is welcome.
Probiotics impact the immune system in a number of ways. Up to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut. The gut bacteria help to educate the immune system so that it responds appropriately. So it’s no wonder that probiotics have a beneficial effect on the respiratory tract.