Keep Intestine Bacteria Local
Let us start at the very beginning. When you were born, your intestine was sterile. There were no living organisms in your intestine at birth.
You got your first dose of friendly bacteria from the birth canal of your mother. A baby from a vaginal birth ends up healthier than of a cesarean birth.
You got even more friendly bacteria from the surface of your mothers nipples as you suckled your daily feed. That is why breast-fed infants are healthier than those bottle-fed.
As you grew up, you tend to put your fingers that had been exposed to a whole host of germs in your mouth thus, getting your dose of probiotics from the environment. You were fed salads that were uncooked and hence, packed with bacteria. Again, this added to your intestine flora.
Slowly you populated your intestine with more than 10 trillion bacteria. There are more than 400 species of bacteria found in the intestine. In terms of dry weight, they would weigh 3.5 pounds (1.59kg) yes more than your brain and almost 5 times bigger than your beating heart!
There is a lot of weight that you are carrying there. There are good reasons for that. Even today, we have not quite figured out fully what these bacteria are doing in your intestine. But here are some their functions:
Probiotic organisms contribute to the digestive process by secreting enzymes that help break down foods. Probiotics help digest food in the gut in the same way they partially digest the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in milk to create yogurt. In fact, people who are lactose intolerant can often tolerate yogurt because the lactose has already been partially broken down. Improved digestion can benefit anyone with impaired secretion of hydrochloric acid, bile, and pancreatic or intestinal enzymes.
Short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production
Among the most important by-products of probiotic metabolism are SCFAs. SCFAs, such as lactic acid, provide up to 70 per cent of the energy required by intestinal epithelial cells and have been used therapeutically for disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease. Intestinal cells appear less capable of being a protective barrier without the energy provided by SCFAs.
SCFAs provide additional health benefits by making intestinal pH more acidic. Because most intestinal pathogens do not grow well in an acidic environment, their populations are kept in check. In addition, lower intestinal pH facilitates absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. Lowering intestinal pH may also help lower colon-cancer risk. Studies have shown that low-risk groups typically have a lower faecal pH, while high-risk groups tend to have a higher faecal pH.
Probiotic flora have a profound effect on immune function by enhancing both the cell-mediated and humoral branches of the immune system. Research studies show that probiotic organisms increase the numbers of circulating white blood cells, stimulate phagocytosis, elevate levels of antigen-specific antibodies and increase production of such cytokines as gamma-interferon. A recent Lancet study of 4,718 women associates low levels of lactobacilli in the vaginal tract with increased incidence of HIV-1 in younger women. Findings like this drive home the importance of maintaining healthy flora to ensure proper immune function.
The intestinal lining prevents movement of toxic/allergenic materials into the bloodstream. An imbalance of intestinal flora can contribute to increased intestinal permeability the so-called "leaky intestine syndrome.
Intestinal hyper permeability has been implicated in a variety of diseases including hypersensitive reactions to foods. A recent landmark study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology made clear the connection between intestinal flora and food allergy. Using a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, researchers observed clinical improvements in a test group of 10 infants with food-allergy-related dermatitis. After a one-month trial, infants on the probiotic supplement showed significant improvements in their condition compared to infants given placebo. The authors conclude that enhanced intestinal barrier function leading to decreases in antigen translocation were responsible for the clinical improvements seen in the infants.
Research is uncovering anti-carcinogenic activities that can be partially explained in terms of functions already discussed, such as lowering intestinal pH, reducing populations of toxin-producing bacteria, and enhancing immune function. The organic acids produced by probiotics also have a mildly stimulating effect on gut peristalsis, hastening the removal of potentially carcinogenic toxins from the intestinal tract. Recent research has even shown that cell-wall components of certain probiotic organisms may promote specific immunological activity against malignant cells. In one animal study, Bifidobacterium longum was shown to inhibit mammary and liver carcinogenesis. This study is exciting because it suggests the anti-carcinogenic activity of probiotics may extend beyond the intestinal tract.
Local is Best
Here is the significant thing: all probiotics were local from your mums birth canal and the surface of her nipples to the salads, from the dirt that you crawled on to the fermented foods that you consumed when you grew up.
However, all your probiotics today are not local. They are imported from North America, Europe and Japan. This was simply not possible until the development of refrigeration technology and aviation a few decades ago. Before that all probiotics were local.
Thus, if you are supplementing with probiotics, make sure it is local. They are best able to survive in your intestine and stay there longer. If they survive, you lead a healthy life.
Think: the food that you consume and hence, the food of your probiotics is very different from that of Americans, Europeans or Japanese.
No wonder, that the winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine Elle Metchnikoff named the bacteria that he was working on Lactobacillus bulgaricus as they were cultured in Bulgaria.