How Do Probiotics Play a Role in Our Health?
Hi. It’s Dr. Connie.
When I gave birth to my second son, I had a Lupus flare affecting my kidneys.
While my health was of great concern, I was more concerned with the melasma (brown spots from hormonal imbalance) on my face.
In my opinion, the spots made me look sick, making my sickness “visible” to everyone. I always felt that as long as I could hide my sickness, it was easier to cope with because I could just pretend I was ok.
People around me would give me concerned looks, and I didn’t like that. If I could only pretend to be just like everyone else, it was far easier to handle.
But due to the melasma, my sickness could now be seen and I couldn’t deny the truth.
I got facials, chemical peels, laser treatment, and tried countless creams on my face to try to get back my flawless skin.
But ultimately, I knew that skin issues, like melasma, were due to my gut dysbiosis.
And despite all my futile attempts with various beauty treatments, it wasn’t until I addressed my gut that I not only got rid of my melasma, but I also healed from lupus.
Importance of Gut Health
Our gut defines our health. It’s the one organ that affects all systems in our body.
Not only that, but eating is something we do daily and the food needs to be processed through our gut.
We are complex organisms, and most of our genetic activities are bacterial.
The human colon consists of 1000 trillion microorganisms. That’s 10x the amount of human cells in the body.
The following are facts about our intestines (aka the gut):
- Weigh 1.5 kg
- Unique and vital organ
- Metabolic activity rivals that of the liver
- Responsible for immune and GI maturation
- Responsible for normal CNS development
- Susceptible to colonization resistance, which can open you up to opportunistic infections
- Responsible for immune system modulation and metabolic modulation
We don’t understand everything, but the gut is an important organ that is responsible for the health of our whole body.
We’ve all heard this term before. Another term for leaky gut is intestinal permeability.
The body needs a barrier to entry, but due to leaky gut, pathogens and toxins are able to enter the body, causing an immune response.
Over time, this influx of pathogens causes our immune system to work hard to a point of exhaustion. Our immune system requires lots of energy to keep fighting the bad guys.
But the problem is that also due to gut permeability, the necessary nutrients are not being supplied to our cells, causing a vicious cycle of inflammation.
Therefore, the immune system begins to become dysfunctional and slowly breaks down, causing various symptoms to manifest.
It may start with aches, pains, fatigue, rash, hair loss, and digestive discomfort.
And if you don’t do anything about it, it can potentially lead to a full blown autoimmune condition, just like it did for me.
How to Fix Leaky Gut
Fixing leaky gut is the first thing to do. That’s because the gut directly controls our immune system.
Our gut microbiota, as well as probiotics, play a major role in immune modulation.
So how do you modulate the gut microbiota? (Microbiota is a fancy term for the healthy bacteria in our gut).
- Diet (without this you can forget the rest)
- Limiting antibiotics (which will undo everything you’re trying to do)
- Fecal transplantation
1965: Lilly & Stillwell – proved that microbes in the gut produced growth promoting factors
1989: Fuller – proved that live microbial feed supplements benefited the host by improving intestinal microbial balance
2001: We found that viable microbial food supplements beneficially influence the health of humans. However, they need to be live with proper CFU (colony forming units).
Probiotics: A Brief History
Probiotics is a word derived from a Latin word which means “for life”.
The evolution of probiotics parallels that of humans, which can be traced back to the ancient times nearly 10,000 years ago.
- Probiotics were on fruit and vegetables
- 10,000 years ago, humans fermented beverages
- Yogurt developed 3,000 years ago
- Hippocrates used sour milk for GI disorders
- Humans discovered natural fermentation of foods like beer, kimchi, and sauerkraut
Godfather of Probiotics
Eli Metchnikoff won the nobel prize in 1908.
He understood that an innate dependence of the intestinal microbes on food makes it possible to modify the flora in our bodies in order to replace harmful microbes with the good microbes.
Types of Bacteria
There are various types of bacteria that we all need to be familiar with, especially because there are countless options to choose from.
Lactic acid bacteria
- Lactobacillus species
- Bifidobacterium species
- Streptococcus thermophilus (yogurt starter)
- Enterococcus faecium
- Lactococcus species
- Leuconostoc species
- Pediococcus species
Non-lactic acid bacteria
- Bacillus species
- Propionibacterium species
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Digests and metabolizes proteins and carbs
- Synthesizes B vitamins and vitamin K
- Enhances innate and acquired immunity
- Protective against pathogens
- Ferments non-digestible fiber
- Makes B and K vitamins
- Enhances immunity
- Used in traditional fermented fish and Japanese foods like nato and soy foods
- Enhances immunity
- Promotes colon heath via heat shock proteins
Streptococcus Thermophilus Characteristics
- Yogurt and cheese starter
- Prevents cell damage
- Protects from streptococcus species
- Clinically used to treat ulcerative colitis
Saccharomyces Boulardii Characteristics
- Heat & pH resistant
- Active ingredient in Asian medicinal teas
- Increases enzyme activity in our gut
- Supports against dietary protein allergies
- Protective against candida in the gut
Use of Probiotics
The use of probiotics vary, but can be used to treat the following:
- Antibiotics associated diarrhea
- C. difficile associated diarrhea
- Other types of diarrhea
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Vaginal dysbiosis
- Lactose intolerance
- Allergies, atopic dermatitis, eczema
- High cholesterol
The Role of Gut Health in Autoimmunity
Gut health is personally very important to me as I’ve struggled with gut issues most of my life.
I’ve talked before about the clinical assumptions of autoimmune patients. There are three things that we assume are present in all autoimmune patients:
- Genetic predisposition
- Gut permeability
As a formula fed baby, I lacked the necessary bacteria, developed gut permeability, had the genetic predisposition to autoimmunity, and had a trigger, likely stress.
I’ve tried most holistic and conventional interventions to keep my Lupus under control.
But it wasn’t until I seriously understood the importance of gut microbiome that I began to notice a significant improvement in my health.
Not only did my health recover, but it became fully predictable to where I felt I was in control over my health.
In my career as a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I’ve not only helped thousands of patients reverse their disease, but more importantly regain their hope for a future.
It All Starts in the Gut
I not only recommend viable, various live strains of probiotics, but always advise clients about the importance of their diet.
Above all, if their lifestyle doesn’t change, it doesn’t matter how many supplements or probiotics they take.
It won’t make an impact in the way they want.
Probiotics: Supplement or Fermented Food?
So which probiotics should you choose or can you consume them via food?
I had this discussion with a physician friend of mine who was excited about a patient making kimchi.
My only concern when making homemade fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, or yogurt, is that we don’t really know what species will grow and how much.
I grew up with kimchi. It’s a staple food so much so that we typically eat it at least one meal a day.
I’ve seen my mom home make the kimchi and it’s a long process with many steps, and requires ample amount of salt and lots of fish sauce that is heavily loaded with msg.
One can argue that we can find a better quality fish sauce without msg. However, there is still a concern due to the inability of knowing exactly what species are present in such fermented foods.
What I can tell you is that if you have digestive issues, it’s likely that you won’t tolerate such fermented foods.
In fact, you won’t tolerate a high dose of probiotics or prebiotic foods like certain vegetables either.
So it’s important to know what’s right for you, especially if you struggle with symptoms mentioned above.
I recommend taking a live probiotic from a trusted source that contains bifidobacterium, lactobacillus, and saccharomyces boulardii if you suspect you have SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth).
If you get frequent infections such as sinus, UTI, or upper respiratory and have been taking antibiotics, then it’s more important to replenish your gut flora with the good probiotics and you’ll need a plan to do so.
If you have brain fog, struggle with energy, or have an autoimmune condition, you’ll need an especially higher dose for a short time.
Should you need recommendations on specific probiotics, please feel free to comment or contact us at 678-335-5566 or email@example.com and we will make recommendations for pharmaceutical grade probiotics that contain live colony forming units in the amount that you need.
Thanks so much, if you have any questions, please comment below.
Have a great week and see you next week!
About the Author
Dr. Connie has suffered from Lupus for the last 16 years. As a result, she discovered that a holistic minded approach to health was most beneficial for herself in battling Lupus and for her patients, who battle everything from Autoimmune Disease to Weight Loss. Dr. Connie holds a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and a Masters in Public Health (Nutrition) from the renowned Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions. She is also a Registered and Licensed Dietitian in the State of Georgia. Additionally, Dr. Connie is a Functional Medicine Practitioner (Certification Pending 2017), a Registered RYT-200 Yoga Teacher & School (Yoga Alliance) and Certified Pilates Teacher (Pilates Method Alliance).