The Power of Probiotics

February 1, 2012

By Anna Varriano

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Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a Virtual Conference, which was a really great experience. The name of the conference was:  ‘Pre and Probiotics 2012: Building Gut Health Science and Claims’.

If you’ve been reading my Tips for a while, you might notice that this isn’t the first time I’ve written about probiotics – I did so in May 2008’s Tip entitled  ‘Probiotics and Gut Health’ and again in October 2009’s Tip entitled ‘Ten Steps to Build Immunity’.

I’m writing about probiotics again this month because they have so many incredible health benefits to offer us – some I’ve known about for a while, some I just recently learned about and want to share with you.

I often have clients who come to see me simply to get some help sorting through all the supplements they have at home. Some are taking dozens of supplements without really being sure of why they are taking them or what they are for.  Others are only taking a multi-vitamin, and often it’s one that isn’t really delivering much value.

While I believe we should get as many nutrients as we can from eating whole, unprocessed, clean foods, it’s not always easy to meet our daily nutrient requirements given the current state of much of our food supply, as well as our busy lifestyles. For these reasons, there are four supplements that I strongly encourage everyone to take, as many of us are deficient in the nutrients they offer, and it is very difficult to get enough of them through our food.  These are:

  1. Vitamin D
  2. Omega-3 essential fatty acids
  3. Probiotics
  4. A mutli-vitamin/mineral

I’ve written about Vitamin D, Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and multis in previous Tips, so I’m not going to say anything about them in this Tip, other than if you’re not taking them every day, you should be – especially Vitamin D and omega-3. The same is true for probiotics – and I’m not talking about getting them through yogurts that often have quite a bit of sugar in them too (which defeats the purpose of taking a probiotic in the first place by the way), but through a high quality source that has been clinically proven to deliver the health claims associated with probiotics.

A lot of food and supplement manufacturers are jumping on the probiotic band wagon and making a lot of noise about the fact that their products contain probiotics; however, it’s important to know that not all probiotics are created equal.

Health Canada states that the term ‘probiotic’ can only be used if there is human clinical evidence that the particular strain of bacteria leads to health benefits. In fact, the term ‘probiotic’ doesn’t mean anything unless it is:

  • Strain specific
  • Dose specific
  • Condition specific
  • Has GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe)

One bacteria which meets all of the above requirements is L. acidophilus DDS-1. This strain has over 40 years of research, over 200 studies on various health conditions, is of human origin (so we know it belongs – and knows exactly what to do – in our body), is 97% acid and bile resistant (so it won’t be destroyed by our digestive juices),  stable at room temperature for 2 years, and is ‘colonizing’ – which means it will be able to attach itself to our intestinal wall where it will “live long and prosper” (making Star Trek’s Spock proud!).

In addition to supporting digestive health and boosting our general immunity (common health claims associated with probiotics in general), the L. acidophilus DDS-1 strain has some other very impressive, clinically proven health claims, including:

  • Significantly decreasing symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), including abdominal pain, bloating, belching, flatulence, diarrhea and constipation (1)
  • Produces an antibacterial compound called ‘acidophilin’ that demonstrates activity against many disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli, Clostridium botulinum, and some strains of salmonella and staphylococcus – as well as preventing vaginal and urinary tract infections (1)
  • Demonstrated to be effective in controlling atopic dermatitis in preschool children (1)
  • Provides substantial protection again traveler’s diarrhea (1)
  • Helps in the inhibition of Candida albicans – the common microorganism responsible for yeast infections and ‘leaky gut syndrome’ – a cause of food sensitivities among other things (1)
  • Demonstrated a cholesterol lowering effects in rats (1)
  • Stimulates the production of immune components that are known killers or inhibitors of tumor cells – that is, it has cancer-fighting properties (1)

If your reaction to the above list of health benefits was anything like mine (which was “Wow, that’s AMAZING!”), I’m hoping that you’ll take action as I did, by making sure that you take a probiotic supplement every day AND that it contains strains that have been clinically proven to provide the above health benefits.

We can also get probiotics from our food, in particular lacto-fermented food and drinks (http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/lacto-fermentation), but many of us don’t get enough this way, so it’s great to know that we can meet our requirements through supplementation.

Since all probiotics supplements do not offer the same health benefits, make sure you choose one with well researched, clinically proven strains such as L. acidophilus DDS-1. Other considerations are whether or not the probiotic supplement is non-dairy, gluten-/wheat-free, corn and soy free, non-GMO, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and is preservative-free.  If you need any guidance regarding the selection of a probiotic product, I will be happy to help you.

I like the statement (trademarked no less) made by Dr. Dash – the doctor who pioneered much of the probiotic research and the introduction of probiotics to the public via supplements:

Probiotics are more important than multivitamins and should be taken daily.™

– Dr. S. K. Dash (Former Vice President and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Probiotic Association)

Seems that a probiotic a day keeps the doctor away…

To your health,

Anna

References:

  • Customer Specific Probioitc Blends – UAS Laboratories presentation    (1) Disclaimer : These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. As with all supplements, seek advice from a physician before using).

‘Pre and Probiotics 2012: Building Gut Health Science and Claims’. Virtual Conference

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