Articles on Health
When we speak of preventing and stopping disease, the
immune system first comes to mind. The skin acts as a barrier
to unwanted pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause
health problems), and if they breech this first wall, the
immune system attacks. What many of us don’t know is that the
immune system is not always our first defense. Instead,
The home guard in the
digestive tract are what we call "friendly" bacteria. These
are bacteria that fight off the bad bacteria—such as E.
coli—and keep our intestinal tracts "in balance." When
friendly bacteria are not at appropriate levels, and when
unfriendly bacteria dominate, health problems can result.
These include gas, bloating, intestinal toxicity,
constipation, and malabsorption of nutrients.
These friendly bacteria—which are often known as
"probiotics" when in supplement form—have a number of health
know what antibiotic activity is: the ability to hunt down and
kill harmful bacteria. We also realize that pharmaceutical
antibiotics do have a downside—they kill all our bacteria,
including our good bacteria, and have side effects. And, of
course, the increasingly common problem of
antibiotic-resistant bacteria—bacteria that cannot be killed
by our arsenal of antibiotics—is due to our overuse and
overdependence on antibiotics.
Many types of friendly bacteria produce their own
antibiotics—although "replacement-biotics" might be a better
word. That is because friendly bacteria produce substances
that inhibit or "scare" the bad bacteria, preventing them from
forming colonies that eventually cause problems. Natural
antibiotics produced by friendly bacteria do not have any
uncomfortable side effects.
are another pathogen of which we are all aware. The common
cold is a viral infection, as is human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV). However, viruses are much harder to treat and destroy
than bacteria. To date, there is no class of drugs known to
destroy viruses completely, although there are antiviral
agents that prevent against the virus initially doing damage.
Some friendly bacteria have antiviral effects—they help
prevent a viral foothold from becoming a serious threat.
Although the exact mechanism by which these bacteria do this
is not known, there have been a number of laboratory tests
that indicate that certain strains produce hydrogen peroxide,
which functions as a virus killer. In her book
Probiotics, Nature’s Internal Healers, Natasha
Trenev documents several studies in which friendly bacteria
were used to inhibit the herpesvirus.
most of us realize that diet can be a risk factor for cancer—a
diet high in animal fat and fried foods may contribute to a
number of types of cancer. One of the reasons for this may be
because cancer-causing substances are produced in the body
from the nitrates used in the curing of luncheon meats.
Friendly bacteria have the ability to neutralize nitrates.
In 1987, Fernandes, et al., (FEMS Microbiology
Reviews 46) listed ways that friendly bacteria may destroy
1) Some species of friendly bacteria eliminate potentially
cancer-causing substances before they "turn" cancer-causing.
2) Some strains have the ability to alter enzymes that turn
a potentially carcinogenic agent into a carcinogenic agent.
3) Some strains have the ability to suppress some tumor
"Postulated health advantages associated with probiotic intake"
1) Alleviation of symptoms of lactose malabsorption
2) Increase in natural resistance to infectious diseases of the intestinal tract
3) Suppression of cancer
4) Reduction in serum cholesterol concentrations
5) Improved digestion
6) Stimulation of gastrointestinal immunity."
—The American Journal of Clinical
Other benefitsIn addition to these three benefits, friendly bacteria also have the ability to
- manufacture vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, A, and K,
and essential fatty acids;
- aid in the digestive process by helping digest lactose
(milk sugar) and protein;
- clean the intestinal tract, purify the colon, and
promote regular bowel movements;
- increase the number of immune system cells;
- create lactic acid, which balances intestinal pH;
- protect us from environmental toxins such as pesticides
and pollutants, reduce toxic waste at the cellular level,
and stimulate the repair mechanism of cells;
- help maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride
- break down and rebuild hormones.
Lactobacilli are one of the most important types of
friendly bacteria found in the digestive tract. These bacteria
get their name (lacto) because they are able to turn milk
sugar into lactic acid. They play a key role in producing
fermented milk, yogurt, and cheeses.
The "father" of lactobacilli could well be Elie
Metchnikoff, who, in 1908, noted that people in Bulgaria lived
longer than those in other countries, despite the fact that
Bulgaria was considered "underdeveloped." His investigation of
this led him to diet, yogurt, and lactobacilli. His work was
the first to prove that lactobacilli could transform milk
sugar into lactic acid. Metchnikoff also hypothesized that
this acidity would provide a hostile environment for
unfriendly bacteria. This was later proved correct.
Lactobacilli are able to "balance" unfriendly bacteria
because when they produce lactic acid, they alter the
intestinal environment, making it unsuitable for unfriendly
bacteria. In other words, lactobacilli don’t destroy the
unfriendly bacteria; they destroy their home, forcing them to
Lactobacilli have other benefits. They may help normalize
cholesterol levels, and certain strains may antagonize
Candida albicans. There is indirect evidence that
lactobacilli may help relieve anxiety and depression. This is
because the amino acid tryptophan serves as an antidepressant,
and lactobacilli release this amino acid.
Although other Lactobacillus species are better known—in particular
acidophilus—there are other powerful strains. One of
these is L. plantarum, which is the predominating
Lactobacillus species on both the oral and intestinal
human mucosa. According to many researchers, for lactobacilli
to perform at optimal levels, they must be present in high
numbers on the mucous membranes.
One strain of the L. plantarum species has been
tested clinically for its effect on irritable bowel syndrome
(IBS). In both studies, subjects showed a decrease in IBS
symptoms and reduced pain. (Niedzielin, et al., in manuscript;
Nobaek, S., et al., in manuscript)
Lactobacillus salivarius is another
Lactobacillus species. L. salivarius is a new
culture, requiring a special culturing process, and, after
years of research, is just now becoming available. It
flourishes in the small intestine.
L. salivarius is classified as a facultative bacterium,
which means that it can survive and grow in both anaerobic
(without oxygen) and aerobic (with oxygen) environments,
although its main effects take place in anaerobic conditions.
This is a decided advantage over the well-known
Lactobacillus acidophilus, which has little or no
growth in an aerobic environment.
One unique benefit of L. salivarius is its ability
to help break down undigested protein and disengage the toxins
produced by protein putrefactions. Another benefit is its
rapid reproduction—it doubles its population every 20 minutes.
Other than the obvious health advantages, this rapid growth is
also an economic advantage: you do not have to take so
Food for the friendly bacteria
Bacteria need nourishment. They get this from our
diet, especially fiber. However, there are "special"
foods which friendly bacteria find particularly
One of these is fructooligosaccharides, or FOS. FOS
are sugars linked together in such a way that they
cannot be digested. Instead, FOS pass through the
stomach to the small intestine and colon where they are
consumed by our friendly bacteria.
Feeding friendly bacteria is not all that FOS do for
us. FOS can also
FOS should not be seen as a replacement for friendly bacteria. They are meant to amplify the benefits of
friendly bacteria, not replace them.
- reduce the growth of unfriendly bacteria
- maintain regular bowel movements
- maintain cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and
- maintain healthy blood sugar levels
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A combination of digestive enzymes, helps our body break down foods so we get more nutrients per meal.
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