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Thank you to everyone who joined me yesterday for the Probiotics: Good, Better, and Best Mini-Class.  It was a lot of fun and I’m sure you were left with a lot of questions.  I’m going to do my best to answer them today.

Q:  What are probiotics?

A:  Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support body functions, when we have them in sufficient quantities.

Q:  Where do we get probiotics?

A:  That depends on what type you’re asking about.  Transient probiotics we get from eating and drinking fermented foods, like:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir, milk and water (some studies indicate that raw milk kefir includes both transient and native probiotic strains)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Natural cheese
  • Sour dough bread
  • Naturally fermented pickles
  • Other fermented foods

Native, or colonizing, probiotics we get from the air we breath, the water we drink, soil, and from the vaginal canal during child birth.

Q:  What are some of the benefits of probiotics?

A:  There are over 500 known species of beneficial bacteria and they perform various functions in the body including:

  • Supporting Digestion
  • Supporting the absorption of nutrients
  • Helping with the digestion of food
  • Providing Vitamins
  • Balancing Intestinal pH
  • Attacking and neutralizing toxins
  • Triggering hormones
  • Helping with bowel transit time and movement
  • Protecting the intestinal membrane (which supports the immune system)
  • Supporting cellular function
  • Maintaining the health of the large intestine
  • Preventing overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria, yeast, and fungus
  • Competing with Candida in the intestine
  • Suppressing the growth of potentially harmful bacteria
  • Producing substances that can lower cholesterol
  • Lowering blood cholesterol in some people
  • Lowering blood pressure in some people
  • Preventing cavities
  • Detoxifying ingested carcinogens
  • Decreasing populations of bacteria that may generate carcinogenic compounds
  • Producing compounds that inhibit the growth of tumor cells
  • Stimulating the immune system to better defend against invaders

Q:  What makes probiotics ‘go away’?

A:  There are many things in our modern environment that contribute to an intestinal imbalance:

  • Chlorine
  • Sodium fluoride
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Poor eating habits
  • Stress
  • Disease
  • Antibiotics in food production
  • Inadequate dietary fiber
  • Infant formula feeding

Q:  What health indications would I notice if I don’t have enough probiotics?

A:  Many of today’s common health challenges are actually indications of a micro-biota imbalance, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Excessive gas
  • Bloating
  • Allergies
  • Eczema
  • Irritable bowel
  • Inflammatory bowel
  • Kidney stones
  • Ear infections
  • Strep throat
  • Colds
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Thrush
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Cancer
  • Leaky gut
  • GERD

Q:  Can’t I just get my probiotcs from yogurt that I purchase at the health food store?

A:  Yogurt can be a decent source of transient bacteria, but probably not the yogurt you purchase at the store.  Store-bought yogurt typically only contains one or two species of bacteria (out of the 500+ that are known) and it may not have sufficient quantities of bacteria to make much of a difference.  Because transient bacteria have a difficult time surviving the digestive process, you end up with only about half of the amount you consume.  That’s why most good probiotic supplements have at least 15 billion active cultures.  A better alternative would be home-made yogurt. But in a pinch Dan Active or Activia would be better than nothing.

Q:  Where do I get probiotics and how do I get them to stay?

A:  Native bacteria you get from the air you breathe, the water you drink (so long as it isn’t chlorinated), the soil (eating a piece of fruit or a vegetable from the garden and wiping it off but not washing it off), and from the vaginal canal during birth.  If you’ve had rounds of anti-biotics you can reintroduce native bacteria through a probiotic supplement (or perhaps a fecal implant).

Transient bacteria you get from eating fermented foods and drinking traditionally fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha.

When necessary, you can re-populate your gut biology through supplementation.

You keep them by avoiding things that kill them and by feeding them (prebiotics).

Q:  Can you recommend a good probiotic supplement?

A:  There are several supplements that can provide transient and/or native bacterial, including:

  • Culturelle – provides a single strain of transient only bacteria
  • VSL 3 – provides a megadose of transient bacteria; typically for immune compromised individuals
  • Biodoph-7 Plus – provides 7 strains of transient bacteria with 3 different prebiotics
  • Bio-Kult – provides about 90% transient and 10% native bacteria
  • Prescript-Assist – 100% native combined with prebiotics
  • Threelac – 2 strains of native and 1 transient, however includes canola oil so not one that I would personally use
  • Theralac – transient and native bacteria that are gel coated to protect from stomach acid, includes pre-biotics as well

Q:  Where can I find recipes for traditionally fermented foods?

A:  One of my favorite sources for traditional fermented food recipes is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Q:  What if I was born (or my baby was born) via C-section?  What if I wasn’t (or my baby wasn’t) breast fed?

A:  Children who are not born vaginally or who are not breast fed do miss out on the opportunity to be inoculated with beneficial native bacteria from their mother.  But all is not lost.  If it was me, I would begin supplementing with native and transient bacteria and eating traditionally fermented foods to help populate my intestinal tract with beneficial bacteria.

Q:  What are pre-biotics?

A:  Prebiotics are foods that feed probiotics.  They include things like:

  • Organic fruits and vegetables with the skin on
  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
  • Green teas
  • Fresh herbs
  • Dark green beans and legumes
  • Cacao
  • Soluble Fiber
  • Raw Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Garlic
  • Oatmeal (properly prepared)
  • Wheat (properly prepared)
  • Flaxseed
  • Chicory
  • Dandelion Greens

Thanks again for joining me for this Probiotics Mini-Class.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!