Naturopathic doctors have been prescribing “Probiotics” (good bacteria) for years. Most people know that having good microbes in our gut is important for our digestive function, but newer research is helping us understand how important these probiotics are for our entire immune system.
So what does the microbial population look like in a healthy individual?
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was developed in 2008 and resulted in some important discoveries, such as:
- Learning that each person has an average of more than 500 different bacterial species
- We all have “bad” or “dangerous” bacteria lurking around in our digestive tract, but the healthy population of good bacteria controls these “bad” species.
- Good bacteria protects us against developing certain conditions such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases and Asthma. (Read More Below on Asthma)
- The microbiome is like a “second genome” and is suspected to have an even greater influence on our health than our own genetics…wow!
To further support the importance of how microbes can support our immune system, a study from the University of British Columbia released on September 30th, 2015, reports that “Four gut bacteria decrease asthma risk in infants”
New research by scientists at UBC and BC Children’s Hospital finds that infants can be protected from getting asthma if they acquire four types of gut bacteria by three months of age. More than 300 families from across Canada participated in this research through the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.
So what exactly do probiotics do in the gut?
There are several mechanisms in which beneficial probiotics support our health:
- Competes with pathogenic organisms (yeast, bad bacteria)
- Reduces inflammation in the digestive tract
- Helps strengthen the lining or the “gut barrier”
- Helps break down our foods so we can better absorb vitamins and other nutrients
- Stimulation of the immune response
So are all probiotics the same? or should I care about the different types of microbes?
The Human Microbiome Project has helped us understand that not all probiotics are the same.
- The genus, species and strain determine the health effect
- it’s important to choose the correct probiotic based on the symptoms or the indication
- More gut bacteria is not necessarily better. It’s all about achieving the right balance and diversity of species
What probiotics do I recommend?
Below is a simple table of certain probiotic genus, species and strain that I recommend during this cold/flu season:
Probiotic Genus, Species, Strain Health Issues Lactobacillus acidophilus (CUL-60) Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis (Cul-34) Reduce cold symptoms in children Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFML. paracasei LPC-37B. Lactis Bi-07B. lactis Bi-04 Reduction of antibiotic associated diarrhea Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL9L.paracasei 8700:2 Reduction of common cold infections or duration of symptoms in adults
To conclude, I invite you to watch this TED talk by Dr. Rob Knight who is a microbial ecologist. In a very succinct way, he shows us how dependant we are on these tiny microbes all around us.