In my last blog I wrote about dysbiosis, an imbalance of the digestive flora that causes pain and discomfort in the digestive area. In the treatment plan I briefly mentioned probiotics as one part of the solution. Today I would like to take a more indepth look at probiotics because they are beginning to get more exposure in the media.
Probiotic is a generic term used to describe the beneficial micro-organisms that live in our digestive tract. The term includes several different species that live and populate our colon. Traditionally these micro organisms, or beneficial flora, would continually be repopulated by the foods that we ate as part of our normal diet.
The beneficial flora was obtained through eating fermented foods. Most cultures have daily foods that are fermented. For example, Italians eat antipasto, Japanese eat miso or tempeh, eastern Europeans eat kiefer or yogurt, Koreans eat kymchee, Germans eat sauerkraut.
Eating these foods as part of a balanced diet helped to maintain the normal digestive process for the culture. Unfortunately the Standard American Diet (SAD) does not have any elements of a fermented foods as a staple part of it’s foundation. This highly processed highly refined diet actually tends to create an ideal environment for harmful micro-organisms.
If you watch TV you will see yogurt commercials explaining the benefits of probiotics. They talk about one of the beneficial strains call Lactobacillus Bifidus but there are other strains like Lactobacillus acidolphilus, L. fermentum, L. casea, L. salivores, L. brevis and L. plantarum. All of these in combination are important to have the good flora in the digestive tract.
I feel that it is also important to mention that infants under one year have different but specific flora necessary to help digest their milk based diets as well. Again these beneficial bacteria are maintained by eating fermented foods along with a whole food, high fiber diet. When patient come into my office for treatment of dysbiosis, I sometimes have to give them supplementation of probiotics to help rebalance the flora.