top of page

probiotics, our neglected bffs

The term probiotic originates from the ancient Greek words pro and biotica, meaning "for life." In 2001, an Expert Consultation meeting arranged by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations created a now widely accepted definition for probiotics.

Trillions of organisms live in your digestive tract. These microorganisms are sometimes called intestinal flora, gut flora, or gut microflora, but the vast majority of them aren’t really flora in the sense of being plants, so many refer to them as microbes. In any case, these little critters are so important to your health and survival that some researchers consider them a vital organ. You might think of microbes as dangerous, but 85% of them are helpful, or at least not harmful, to your body. You want the helpful microbes, which are known as probiotics, to be so plentiful and dominant in your body that there is no room or food for the harmful, disease-causing microbes, known as pathogens. The benefits of a healthy colony of probiotic microbes include:

  • Completing the digestion of your foods through fermentation and by breaking down and aiding in the absorption of otherwise indigestible food

  • Training your immune system to respond only to pathogens

  • Synthesizing vitamins, including B7 (biotin), B12, and K

  • Fighting inflammatory bowel disease

  • Reducing symptoms of inflammatory arthritis

  • Suppressing cancer development and growth

  • Preventing colon cancer

  • Cutting the risk of developing kidney stones

Your colon contains more than 500 different species of bacteria living in a 3-pound mass of partially digested food, with one trillion organisms per gram of feces. Probiotic microbes outnumber potential pathogens like E.coli by as much as ten thousand to one. Bacteria make up about 60% of the weight of your feces, and you excrete your own weight in fecal bacteria every year.

Your intestinal microbes (probiotics) can become unhealthy and die because of fever, illnesses, antibiotics and other drugs, and changes in your diet. Your diet actually determines the predominance of the microbe species that live in your intestines. Probiotic microbes thrive on plant remnants, and pathogens thrive on animal remnants and processed junk food. A diet based on unrefined plants suppresses the growth of pathogenic microbes and stimulates beneficial microbes within one to two weeks of changing your diet.

Probiotic bacteria thrive on the parts of plants that you can’t digest directly, including oligofructose and inulin. These indigestible materials are known as prebiotics. Although you can’t digest prebiotics, the probiotic bacteria in your colon can metabolize them through fermentation, releasing significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. This process can sometimes cause intestinal gas; however, if you eat these prebiotic soluble fibers regularly, your body grows accustomed to them, and you experience fewer problems with gas.

Antibiotics are a main culprit of probiotic death. Antibiotics don’t kill just pathogens/bad bacteria – they also kill probiotic microbes, sometimes eventually allowing the numbers of pathogenic bacteria, previously held in check by the predominating probiotic bacteria, to begin to multiply. Sufficient numbers of these pathogens can cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea. A common antibiotic-associated pathogen is called Clostridium difficile. It produces a toxin that damages the bowel wall, triggering diarrhea.

If you have changed your diet and avoided antibiotics but still suffer from irregular bowel movements, indigestion, elevated cholesterol, or arthritis, then you may want to try enhancing your probiotic microbes with supplements. You have little to lose, as there are no negative side effects and the costs are low. You have everything to gain with improved health from your colony of probiotic microbes.

For more information on probiotics, prebiotics, or for a free consultation, please contact me here:

bottom of page