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Newsletter #10: Probiotics and COVID Booster

November 2022


CLINICAL FOCUS- PROBIOTICS

 

The average human has about 30 trillion cells in their body. This is outnumbered by bacteria which average about 39 trillion per person. They play a significant role in improving digestion, boosting immunity, regulating hormone production to name just a few important functions.

 

As an integrative physician I have prescribed human bacteria, i.e. probiotics, for over 25 years. Only recently have they become mainstream, with conventional gastroenterologists starting to recommend them for a variety of gastrointestinal ailments. But probiotics are so much more.

 

In this newsletter, I’ll try to give you a short primer on the current state of probiotic therapy. Chances are, after reading this, you’ll know more about the subject than your doctors!

 

So, let’s start with a few definitions:

 

PROBIOTICS:  A collection of different species of bacteria and sometimes yeast available as a supplement. Predominant species are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.  The specific species will determine the types of actions that they will have internally. Many foods can also contain probiotics. Examples of probiotic-containing foods include: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, pickles and certain cheeses. The amount and type of bacteria in natural foods can vary greatly depending on source and preparation.

 

PREBIOTICS: The food source for your gut’s healthy bacteria. They are carbohydrates your body can’t digest. So they go to your lower digestive tract, where they act like food to help the healthy bacteria grow. Many foods can also contain prebiotics. Examples of prebiotic-containing foods include: apples, bananas, garlic, beans and oats. Many probiotics are packaged with prebiotics to extend their life span.

 

POSTBIOTICS: These are the substances generated by probiotics as part of their life cycle. Many of these substances have antibiotic-type effects. Postbiotics can also include vitamins such as B vitamins and vitamin K. They also include signaling molecules that can direct the functioning of other body processes and send information/direction to other cells in your body.

 

MICROBIOME: The collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses that naturally live on our bodies and inside us.

 

DYSBIOSIS:  Refers to a condition when the intestines and gut bacteria(microbiome) are in a diseased state. This may be due to the presence of disease-causing bacteria, which may also lead to chronic inflammation.


 

IT’S ABOUT THE TYPE, NOT THE NUMBER

When you look at a bottle of probiotics, the label typically mentions the number of billions of bacteria it contains: 10,20, 50 billion, etc. While this is a popular marketing gimmick, it is not really what counts! The specific types of bacteria are much more important than the total amount. Different species will have very different effects in the human body. This will become clearer when you read the SELECT PROBIOTICS FOR SPECIFIC CONDITIONS section of this newsletter.

Think of species specific probiotics as the generals of an army. You don’t really need a large number of generals to win the war, but you do need the right generals to direct the troops properly.


POSTBIOTICS AS SIGNALING MOLECULES

In my opinion, the most important function of probiotics is to generate postbiotics. These substances can act as signaling molecules telling human cells and other bacteria to improve immunity, reduce inflammation and balance hormones. These postbiotics are species specific, which is why the type of probiotic makes all the difference. Our understanding of postbiotics is just now evolving. I suspect we will see many postbiotic supplements in the near future just as we now see a variety of probiotics.


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