The Probiotic Paradox

bacteria head

The Probiotic Paradox is that both live and dead bacteria in probiotic products can generate biological responses. The use of probiotics in an unhealthy gut can result in immune dysregulation, bacterial translocation into the lymph and blood and increased inflammation. The Probiotic Paradox is that the action of probiotics are dependent upon the health of the gastrointestinal tract, immune status and how established a disease process is.

According to a report, laboratory testing of 12 refrigerated and 8 non-refrigerated, randomly selected probiotic supplements obtained from different health food stores revealed that only one product contained the same bacteria as those listed on the label. Many of the refrigerated products had some beneficial bacteria, but contained fewer species of organisms than the label claimed. More than 30% of all supplements were contaminated with other microorganisms and 50% of the non-refrigerated products were completely dead.

The Probiotic Paradox

For a probiotic to work it must arrive alive. Probiotics promote gut health through stimulation, rather than suppression, of the innate immune system. The Probiotic Paradox is that both live and dead bacteria in probiotic products can generate biological responses. Dead probiotics only stimulate a TH1 response, which is also responsible for autoimmunity. Do not increase the TH1 immune response if you have or think you have an autoimmune condition. Probiotics will provoke the more severe autoimmune TH17 response.

probiotic paradox

Probiotic Survival

For a probiotic to work it must arrive alive. Probiotics promote gut health through stimulation, rather than suppression, of the innate immune system. Our first lines of defense are digestive chemistry and innate immunity.

Stomach acid and bile sterilize anything entering the gastrointestinal tract, if the stomach and gallbladder are healthy enough to do so. An unhealthy stomach and gallbladder may not be able to produce the quantity and quality of acid and bile needed to do the job. This is a duel edge sword. In a healthy gut, unprotected live probiotics will be killed. In an unhealthy gut, the live probiotics will survive but will change their behavior to better survive in an unhealthy gut environment and become pathogenic.

To increase survival probiotics not only should be refrigerated but acid proofed. Many companies do not use acid proofing. Others in an attempt to acid proof use calcium carbonate, an antacid. This neutralizes the sterilization effect of stomach acid and stimulation of the release of bile and pancreatic juices. Other companies use sodium alginate as an acid proofer for probiotics.  Sodium alginate is used as a form of bubble wrapping the microbes in which the sodium alginate serves two purposes: One is it’s a good acid proofer, and after the pancreatic juices are released. The pancreatic juice dissolves the sodium alginate, and then becomes food for the microbes.

Acid and Bile Proofed Probiotics

For a probiotic to work it must arrive alive in the colon. Probiotics defined as “live micro organisms” which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” are common core materials that are often encapsulated in alginate gel. It has been recommended that food containing probiotic bacteria should contain at least 106 live micro organisms per g or mL at the time of consumption to have protective effects such as maintenance of normal intestinal micro flora, enhancement of the immune system, reduction of lactose intolerance and anti-cancer activity.

Along with that probiotics should resist the natural barrier of high acidity and bile content in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and show their survivability and activity in the colon. Since some Lactobacillus lack the ability to adequately survive gastrointestinal tract conditions micro-encapsulation techniques have been applied to improve acid, bile and heat tolerance of probiotics  and to inhibit unwanted reactions during storage and processing which can result in loss of survival and activity. Many probiotic brands report only the storage shelf life with no mention of gastric or intestinal survivability.

Most Probiotic companies print the strength (In Colony Forming Units, or, CFU) available at the time of manufacture, not at the time of expiration. This means they can be dead by the time they reach the store and they lived up to their guarantee. Probiotics are living organisms, and are perishable. They must be refrigerated if stored over 2 weeks. More important than sheer numbers is DELIVERY. Probiotics MUST have an acid proof delivery system to get the probiotics to the intestinal tract where they are needed.

Many probiotics are soil based. Soil based organisms are not naturally found in our bodies and aren’t as compatible. Human origin probiotics are. Another negative with soil based probiotics is that it’s hard to remove impurities and unwanted bacteria from soil based organisms. This can be a health issue for persons with impaired barrier variables (AKA “Leaky Gut”) since nonnative organisms can go systemic.

Probiotic supplements such as Theralac protect the contents of the capsule to ensure delivery of the contents into the intestines which is where they need to be. Only there can they be truly effective.

Probiotics needs protection from the gastrointestinal chemistry, and a growth stimulating food.

The gut environment is controlled by digestive chemistry. The digestive chemistry must occur in a specific sequence and order to maintain the gut environment. Border integrity must be maintained. Even probiotics should be contained within the gut and not allowed into the blood or other body parts.

No microbe can occupy a niche already occupied by another microbe, similar to Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands. The fifteen finch species each developed feeding and structural changes to support their survival as a species. Microbes develop different attributes to support their survival.

Microbiome balances are naturally controlled through competitive exclusion. The use of probiotic supplements can create a situation similar to that being experienced in Australia in the gut. Cane toads were introduced Australia in 1935 to control the native cane beetle. Without any natural predators, the introduction of the toads has cause the depletion of native species. The toads find the Australian environment to be ideal for their survival. The environment can also limit invasive species such as boa constrictors in Florida. Cold weather limits their ability to move into northern Florida.

Gastrointestinal control of Predominant, Facultative, Obligate, Opportunistic, Yeast Mold, Parasites occurs through:

Stomach Acid: First line of defense from microbes

  • Stomach acid kills alkaline loving microbes
  • Chemical destruction through acidic pH
  • Barrier system

Pancreas juices and bile: Second line of defense from

  • Pancreas juices and Bile kills acid loving bacteria
  • Chemical destruction through alkaline pH
  • Barrier system

Probiotic Growth Stimulants

Probiotic Sources of Iron

Iron is highly controlled in the body because free iron produces massive amounts of free radicals. Iron is also an aphrodisiac for bacteria. If bacteria are to survive, they must get iron from their environment. Bacteria will actively seek out iron in red blood cells. Disease-causing bacteria do this in many ways, including releasing iron-binding molecules called siderophores and then reabsorbing them to recover iron, or scavenging iron from red blood cells, hemoglobin and transferrin.

Probiotic label

Iron is used as growth stimulant.

To counteract this, the liver produces hepcidin (an immune system body guard for iron) in response to inflammatory cytokines and bacteria. Hepcidin levels can increase as the result of non-bacterial sources of inflammation, like viral infection, cancer, autoimmune diseases or other chronic diseases causing low iron levels. The sequestration of iron is a major defense mechanism against bacteria. Many mistake low iron levels as a need for iron rather than the body’s attempt to control microbial overgrowth.

  • Probiotics iron which provides a readily available iron source for all bacterial.
  • Lactoferrin binds iron and makes it difficult for iron dependent, gram negative bacteria (like Salmonella and E. coli) to grow. This gives gram positive, probiotic bacteria (which require less iron) a competitive advantage.

There are numerous bacteria species that have an affinity for iron. They will actively seek out and destroy blood cells causing anemia of chronic inflammation. Using iron as a probiotic growth stimulant will fuel bad bacteria overgrowth.

Fructooligosaccharides

Currently the prebiotic FOS is under fire for not being selective enough for probiotics since it stimulates non-probiotic bacteria such as Enterococcus species. This concern aside, a number of probiotic manufacturers still include FOS in their products. Virtually all of the data on FOS as a prebiotic shows a requirement of 4-8 grams per day. So picture this: If probiotic brand X contains 100 mg of FOS per capsule (a typical amount) – to get to the 4 gram minimum requirement you would have to take 40 capsules per day. So FOS there as label dressing in these products– as a marketing story.

There is a positive point to make on FOS: Natural sources of FOS – inulin – are present in certain foods such as bananas, onions, tomatoes, rye bread, asparagus and artichokes are beneficial and quite compatible with probiotics – these are examples of true prebiotic foods. The problematic FOS is the synthetic form. Be aware of inulin sensitivity when eating inulin containing foods.

Lactoferrin

Bacteria organized in biofilms are a common cause of relapsing or persistent infections. Lactoferrin (Lf), a major iron-binding protein induces intestinal lining growth where bacteria must attach to to colonize the colon, proliferation of probiotic bacteria, and depending on its concentration and affects the function and permeability of the intestinal mucosa. The bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) is known to cause mucosal hyperpermeability. Lactoferrin has protective effects against LPS-mediated intestinal mucosal damage and impairment of barrier function in intestinal epithelial cells by reducing biofilm growth. Lactoferrin nearly abolished LPS-induced increases in mitochondrial free radical generation and the accumulation of oxidative damage in the DNA.

Acid Proofing Probiotics

Studies show that > 99% of unprotected probiotics are killed when exposed to stomach acid for 1 hour, a typical time spent in the stomach.

Brand X: (Bacillus coagulans, a probiotic bacteria), calcium (calcium carbonate), vegetarian capsule shell (hypromellose, water, titanium dioxide (color), chlorophyll), microcrystalline cellulose, magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide. May contain trace amounts of casein (milk protein). Lactose free.

  • None
  • Calcium carbonate
    • Acid neutralizer promote Hypochlorhydria, Gallbladder Insufficiency, Pancreas Insufficiency & Loss of Microbial controls
    • Sodium alginate used to acid-proof capsules is a natural carbohydrate found in seaweed protects Probiotic bacteria passage through stomach.

Call today! 530-615-4083

Enzymes indiscriminately damage immunoglobulins. Bacteria, mold and parasites damage immunoglobulins to support their survival.

Enzymes indiscriminately damage immunoglobulins.
Bacteria, mold and parasites damage immunoglobulins to support their survival.

The simplified use of digestive supplements such as Betaine HCl or enzymes does not restore the gut environment. A person using these would digest food better but these supplements will also digest the unprotected gut lining and even cleave immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins protect you and alert the immune system to potential problems. Cleaved immunoglobulins make you sensitive to anything that comes into contact with them, i.e. food, or cells from the body. Naturally produced digestive acid and enzymes are produced in a healthy gut lining. You may feel better using digestive supplements but you should ask why you need them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to determine the cause of the unhealthy lining? Then support the restoration of healthy gut lining.

Avoid Doses Of Probiotics And Prebiotics.

Until the gastrointestinal lining has had time to heal. The exception would be during antibiotic use which would be a good time to support with live acid-proofed probiotics. The live probiotics would have an opportunity to occupy the lining not damaged by lectins.

The time this takes will depend upon many different factors, i.e. your unique circumstances, diet, therapeutic supplements, immune status, microbial flora, etc. For a probiotic to work it must arrive alive and have a place on the gastrointestinal lining to attach to. Live probiotics colonize the gastrointestinal lining and the contents of the gastrointestinal tract. Dead probiotics only stimulate a cytokine immune response. Live probiotics must have a healthy thin mucus layer to attach to. Lectins damage multiple barrier variables causing shedding of the gastrointestinal villi leaving no space for live probiotics to attach to.

The adverse effects of lectins on gut physiology cannot be counteracted by probiotics.  Lectins alter the microbial flora and damage the gastrointestinal lining. At the same time, lectins stimulate a pro-inflammatory cytokine immune response. A healthy gut will be better equipped to support a balanced microbial flora and withstand the effects of inevitable but reasonable lectin intake.

When is it Appropriate to Introduce Probiotics? 

This is a good question. It will depend entirely upon your unique circumstances. We are just now beginning to look at the possibility that prebiotics and probiotic can have deleterious consequences. The Metametrix GIFX will provide important clues when it is appropriate to use live acid-proofed probiotics support. Gastrointestinal symptoms should be minimized and stable with regular bowel movements. Elastase1 should be mid-range and fecal pH should be near 6.6 – 6.8.

Consider these tried-and-true tips for better gut flora (no feces involved):

Eat fermented foods For their good taste—and your good health—favor living fermented foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut and quality yogurt or kefir. This is how they help keep you healthy.

  • Unprocessed fermented foods stimulate the immune system.
  • The flora in living cultured foods form a “living shield” that covers the small intestine’s inner lining and helps inhibit pathogenic organisms including E.coli, salmonella and an unhealthy overgrowth of Candida (yeast).
  • Some fermented foods create antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismustase) that scavenge free radicals which are a cancer precursor.
  • Fermenting transforms hard-to-digest lactose from milk to the more easily digested lactic acid. It neutralizes the anti-nutrients found in many foods including the phytic acid found in all grains and the trypsin-inhibitors in soy.
  • Fermentation generates new nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, digestive aids and the trace mineral GTF chromium.

Eat more plants- Plants are packed with dietary fiber, which bacteria ferment and use to fight pathogens. Dietary fiber is food for bacteria.

Eat a variety of plants- You’ll improve the diversity and health of your microbiome at the same time.

Choose drug-free meats- We all need antibiotics sometimes, but try to reduce your exposure. Antibiotics kill bacteria without discriminating good from bad. A lot of livestock is fed antibiotics and that’s transferred to us.

Call today! 530-615-4083

12 thoughts on “The Probiotic Paradox

  1. Pingback: Bone Broth for Autoimmune Support | Living Wellness

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      • Okay, that resonates very strongly with my own experiense, About a year and a half ago I have a very severe case of Reiter’s Syndrome (couldn’t walk for 5 months) and was very anemic, taking iron supplements made me considerably worse. I recently had a small re-flare after being in “remission” (no joint problems but major tiredness, sleep problems, and anxiety) for a year, in which my iron levels have dropped a lot again.

        I actually just bought the probiotic that has iron in it (the one which you showed the nutrition label) and I will stop taking it.

  3. Many with “Low Iron” are actually experiencing the body trying to defend itself from these iron hungry bacteria that have gotten from the gut into the blood stream. By getting control of the gastrointestinal sequencing and terrain and quenching the inflammation the patients I work with see their iron levels return to normal. While those that take iron supplements for their “iron anemia” continue to have problems.

  4. Pingback: Alkalizing Diet | Wellness Alternatives

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