Our Mutual Relationship with Bugs:
The third step in the functional medicine approach to a healthy gut is to re-inoculate with beneficial bacteria. Humans live in a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria. The human colon is populated with as much as two pounds of bacteria that number up to as much as 100 trillion bugs at any one time; in comparison, the total cells that make up one human are around 10 trillion. So, the bugs living in our colon out number human cells by 10 to 1. In the journal Nature Reviews: Immunology in May of 2009 an article entitled “Gut Microbiota Shapes Intestinal Immune Responses During Health and Disease”, discusses how bacterial diversity and stability help optimize health and wellbeing. What is most important is that we have diversity in the population of bacteria in our gut and that the commensal or beneficial bugs are the ones running the neighborhood.
Why do we Need Bacteria:
The concept of the 3rd “R” or “re-inoculate” is to promote diversity and stability of the beneficial bacteria with probiotics and prebiotics. The beneficial bacteria in the colon have numerous functions that include helping with fermentation and digestion, providing protection against pathogenic bacteria (bad bugs that can and do make us sick), synthesizing vitamins and producing short chain fatty acids from eating prebiotics that act as fuel for the cells lining the colon and protect against the development of cancer.
Who are the Commensal or Beneficial Bacteria in our Colon:
The beneficial bacterial strains that are in most probiotic supplements sold are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. These are the two main strains or families, but there are many different species within these two families and remember the most optimal environment in the colon is to have a very diverse population of bugs. To take commercially made probiotic supplements can be very beneficial, but any commercial supplement can never match the true diversity of the different strains and the species of those strains in real probiotic foods. Laboratory science can and does culture and package certain testable and measurable probiotics; but, there are many bacteria that science cannot measure, culture and package as well as Mother Nature can.
Another probiotic is called Saccharomyces Boulardii. This is a beneficial yeast probiotic that in studies has shown benefit when used in combination with prescription medications to treat Clostridium Difficile, which can cause a chronic diarrhea. It also is used in a four to six month protocol that implements all of the 5 “R’s” of functional medicine to change the environment or population of bugs in the intestines if someone has small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
How are Probiotics Dosed:
Probiotics are dosed in billions of CFU’s. This stands for “colony forming unit” and is a measurement of the good bacteria and yeasts inside. A colony forming unit is a bacteria or yeast that is capable of living and reproducing to form a group of the same bacteria or yeasts.
Microbiologists use CFU to describe the number of active, live organisms instead of the number of all the bacteria – dead, inactive and alive – in a laboratory sample. Only the viable organisms are considered to be probiotics. “Viable” means that the microbes are capable of living under the proper circumstances.
When the 5 “R” approach is first initiated to optimize gut health a higher dose of probiotics, such as 100 billion CFU’s are taken daily. Later, a more maintenance dose of 10 to 20 billion CFU’s daily can be used. But, the most important point to remember is that more and more studies are showing that Diversity is the most important aspect of a healthy gut microbiome, so eating probiotic foods on a daily basis is extremely important.
A list of some probiotic foods are:
Yogurt, Miso, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kombucha, Pickles, Tempeh, and Kimchi
Many of these can be purchased at your local grocery store, but remember for mass production they need to be processed with pasteurization and homogenization which kills most of the live beneficial bacteria. To make your own probiotic foods at home is actually much more simple than you would think and I have a series of demonstration videos entitled “Dr. Trish’s Dishes” that are available on my website to all members of Discover Health, LLC, which is a new health education business I have recently started. If you would like to learn more go to my website: tmurraywellness.com and under Programs select the Discover Health link.
So, What are Prebiotics:
Prebiotics are typically water soluble fiber that is not digestible by the host (human) enzymes and therefore get fermented and digested by anaerobic bacteria in the colon. The product of this fermenting by the bacteria in your gut are short chain fatty acids that are used as fuel by the enterocytes (cells lining the gut). So, if you want a healthy gut lining, then you need to be ingesting good prebiotics every day. There are some commercially made supplements of prebiotics; such as, inulin, fructooligosaccharides, larch or arabinogalactins. But, I prefer to feed my bacteria with real food prebiotics:
Onion, Garlic, Jerusalem Artichokes, Leeks, Chicory, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Asparagus, Bananas, Root Vegetables, Apples.
As you can see from this list eating more and more fruits and vegetables is going to keep your gut microbiome healthy and you healthy!
***If you are finding this series of blogs on the 5R Functional Medicine Approach to Optimal Gut Health interesting and helpful and you live within a reasonable distance from my office in Conway, NH, then you are not going to want to miss the first Quarterly Event of Discover Health, LLC being held on Thursday evening April 21st at 6PM. All members of the growing community of people trying to learn how to Optimize Their Own Health through Education, Community and Support will be coming together for an amazing event you won’t want to miss!
To learn more and find out how to become a member go to my website: tmurraywellness.com and under the “Programs” tab click the link to “Discover Health. You can also call my office at (603) 447-3112 if you have any questions.