So, my research into the fascinating world of probiotics continues...
The more I learn about these amazing forms of bacteria the more frustrated I become with the commercial brands that are available to the general public. Most probiotic brands are contract-manufactured. This means that sometimes the person who developed the formula and wrote the label may not be all that experienced in the field of probiotics. So I've been on the hunt for a good source for a while now. I've blogged about Natren probiotics before and I still really like their product. However, they are limited to just four different strains of bacteria and I'd like to branch out because each bacteria has different benefits and the more you switch them around the more likely you are to hit upon one that gives you greater benefits and faster results.
I've mentioned before that bacteria are competitive. So if you blend different strains of bacteria they will often compete with each other. Upon further research it seems some strains are more aggressive while others will play nice. Lactobacillus casei is one strain that is very aggressive and will compete heavily with other bacteria. That's another reason why I don't use BioKult, the strain originally formulated by Dr. Natasha which contains L. casei. Research into probiotics is ongoing and we are learning new things all the time. I also don't like to use soil based organisms as this has been a controversial topic among probiotic manufacturers. Many of these spore-forming soil-based organisms can become just as pathogenic as the strains we are trying to get rid of. I'd rather play it safe with a sensitive digestive system. If my client wants to try soil-based organisms once some significant healing has occurred I'm okay with that. But not in the beginning.
GutPro is an custom probiotic I've been investigating that was formulated with GAPS in mind. Here's what I like about this product:
One bottle of GutPro powder contains 12 TRILLION colony-forming units of bacteria. So that means at a therapeutic dose an adult would only need to take 1/32 tsp. This means there are 480 servings per bottle. A child would need even less, 1/64 tsp. Luckily the company also provides measuring spoons so you don't have to try and figure out how to get 1/64 of a teaspoon. An adult would need a smidgen and a child just a drop. The retail cost for a bottle of GutPro powder costs $155. Pretty steep for only 60 grams but again, you're getting at least 480 servings. I am only going to recommend this product if you have already reached your therapeutic dosage as a replacement for the Trenev Trio product from Natren. If you are just starting out on GAPS, stick with the Natren Superdophilus, Bifidophilus, and/or Bulgaricum. This should be a significant cost savings over Trenev Trio at $62.95 for only 30 servings. Hmmm, $2 per serving or 32 cents per serving?
The GutPro capsules contain 600 Billion CFU's (colony-forming units). So you'd have to get 20 bottles of GutPro capsules to equal what you get in one bottle of GutPro powder. Each capsule contains 5 billion CFU's. There are two extra ingredients required to encapsulate it and remember that capsules won't provide any benefit to the ear, nose and throat. This might be a good option if you prefer capsules, don't have upper digestive issues, or would like to remain on just a maintenance level dosage of 10-billion bacteria. One bottle gives a single person a two-month supply at 2 capsules per day for $49.95.
To Your Health!
Note - At this time I am not going to recommend GutPro for anyone under the age of four. Stick with the LifeStart Powder from Natren. On occasion I may recommend the Superdophilus powder, Bifidonate powder or Bulgaricum powder from Natren as well.
The use of probiotics at the beginning of life cannot be stressed enough. A probiotic is a microorganism living within the body that positively contributes to the body's health. A healthy body contains ten times more probiotic bacteria than body cells. These bacteria make up 70% of our immune system and are our first line of defense against pathogenic forms of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other parasites that will invade and infect our body.
A baby is born with a sterile gut. The infant's first introduction to bacteria comes from the mother's vagina as they travel down the birth canal. In a healthy mom the main colonizing strain of bacteria is called Bifidobacterium infantis. Caesarean section babies have a much lower chance of acquiring this healthy strain of bacteria, less than 1% of C-section babies are properly colonized while 60% of vaginal births are colonized. If the mother does not have healthy strains of bacteria colonizing her vagina then the baby will be introduced to whatever strains are present including pathogenic strains.
Mother's colostrum may contain up to 40% probiotic bacteria assuming the mother is not taking antibiotics. The main strain present will be bifidobacteria which sets up an environment that makes it easier for other probiotic strains to colonize later on in life. Commercial formula does not contain beneficial probiotics and contains many sugars and other ingredients that will feed pathogens.
Bacteria begin to colonize and live within the intestinal wall within the first few years of life. These resident strains become a part of our inner ecosystem and are crucial to the proper functioning of our digestive and immune systems. That is why it is important to limit antibiotic use during the first few years of life so these colonies have an opportunity to become healthy.
While resident bacteria populations can diminish due to stress, antibiotic use, and toxin exposure it doesn't appear that supplementing with probiotics later in life will replace resident strains. They may however provide a hospitable environment to discourage the growth of pathogens and allow the resident strains to recover. That is why it is so important to get the right kind of bacterial strains living in the bowel wall within the first few years of life. If pathogenic strains are allowed to form colonies within the digestive tract it can be nearly impossible to completely eradicate them.
What does all of this mean for your baby? At the start of life there may be colic, reflux, skin rashes and/or poor weight gain. Later immune system compromise will result in frequent illness, ear infection, eczema, allergies, asthma, and bowel disfunction. Depending on the types of pathogens and the amount of damage we may even be talking about ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or Autism. These are all disorders that have drastically increased over the last few decades as antibiotic use has increased.
I recommend that every woman who wants to have a baby begin supplementing with probiotics now. The sooner you can bring your own gut bacteria into balance, the easier it will be for your child. If you are pregnant or nursing you will also want to supplement with beneficial bacteria. You may want to consider a vaginal wash of beneficial bacteria to discourage pathogens within your vaginal tract. Having a powdered form of B. infantis will be crucial in ensuring early colonization. I suggest placing some in the infants mouth, dusting the nipples with it before breastfeeding, and possibly even putting some in the infant's bathwater or rubbing a diluted form over their skin. Frequent exposure to the right forms of probiotic bacteria are your child's best defense against chronic illness and degenerative diseases. This one simple thing will make a drastic difference in the health of your child for the rest of their life. More people need to be doing this because I have seen too many unhealthy babies. Get the word out!
To Your Health,
This is a summary of a talk I gave last weekend at the Food Not Bombs event held at Veteran's Park.
The way that we eat today, our current food system, has its roots in World War II. Before the World Wars most families raised their own food or acquired their food from small local farms within a 50-mile radius of their home. These small farms produced a variety of goods and were similar to our ideas of Old MacDonald's Farm. A cow here, a pig there and chicks everywhere. During World War II, American men were called to war resulting in a labor shortage for these small farms. German U-boats also sank many merchant ships resulting in a loss of imports. Rationing of food was the most obvious solution to food shortages. Imported foods like sugar and tea were of course rationed but also foods that were considered vital to health: butter, eggs, milk, bacon, meat, and cooking fat. In Europe meat was rationed to one pound per week while eggs were rationed to only one every two weeks. Imitation foods like dried milk, powdered eggs, vegetable oil and margarine were cheap to produce and replaced many common foods.
After the WWII, the US military put forth the "Atoms for Peace" program where technology advancements during wartime could be utilized and applied to the strained food system. Commercial agribusiness rose to "end world hunger" and small family farms sold out to larger farms as the government told them to "get big or get out". Variety gave way to large mono-crop farms, battery farming, and Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Quality was sacrificed for quantity in the race to produce as much as possible as efficiently as possible. The Green Revolution helped by promoting chemical fertilizers to increase crop yield. Rock dust containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium replaced slower methods of soil building. While the crops did grow faster at first, trace minerals in the soil were soon depleted leaving crops susceptible to disease and insect infestation. Pesticide use increased like DDT created from the company Monsanto, the same company that created Agent Orange that was used during the Vietnam War. Monsanto is a giant bio-tech company that promotes genetically engineered foods and the weedkiller Round-up.
As distance from farm to market increased food additives were required to increase the shelf-life of modern foods. Many of these food additives were never adequately tested for safety although the few that have are linked to many modern degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease, ADD, and more.
Our food system is being run like a corporate war machine. It was supposed to end hunger but now people are well fed and starving of nutrients. The average American has forgotten how to grow their own food, save their own seeds, and even cook their own meals. With a booming economy and disposable incomes, we asked for convenience and got it. Now restaurants, super markets, fast food, and convenience foods have replaced the traditional methods humans used for thousands of years. And we have traded our health for that convenience. Think about that. Do all of these modern technologies make you feel any less stressed?
No our soil is depleted of nutrients so the food grown in it lacks vital nutrients as well. We eat the devitalized food and so our bodies lack nutrients as well and so they are sold back to us in the form of a pill. Meanwhile cheap subsidized food from large mono-crop farms like GE soy and corn are found in every product on grocery store shelves. Overconsumption of soy and corn leads to obesity, diabetes, food allergies, and digestive disorders. Conventional medicine and the Pharmaceutical companies benefit greatly from the rise in degenerative disease. These corporations influence government regulation and only focus on disease management instead of disease prevention.
Our food safety is compromised. Animals in Confined Animal Feeding Operations are stressed and diseased from poor nutrition so they are fed antibiotics which have the added benefit of increasing weight gain and shortening their time to go to market. These antibiotics in our food supply affect our own internal gut bacteria. Genetically engineered foods are coded with an antibiotic resistant gene in their DNA which can transfer to bacteria creating antibiotic resistant superbugs like MRSA. As our own gut bacteria population becomes out of balance we become more susceptible to food poisoning. Meat from one cow infected with e. coli can end up in thousands of different hamburgers across the country with our current food system. And yet the FDA targets small producers of natural food products like raw milk. The same type of milk that was rationed during WWII for its importance in human health and vitality. Raw milk is illegal to purchase in most states within the US and any farmer providing raw milk can be raided at gun point, thrown in jail, and subjected to costly legal battles.
Here in Michigan, a supposed wild pig problem has prompted the DNR to label heritage pigs from small family farms as invasive species. These hogs used for gourmet charcuterie can be slaughtered on site without renumeration to the farmer. One could argue that the DNR is stepping outside of its normal regulatory capacity and siding with large scale pork producers. If it isn't a hog species used for industrial hog farming, it doesn't count.
During WWII, families were encouraged to grow victory gardens and chickens, rabbits, and even pigs were raised even within city limits to ensure food security. I think we need to get back to these types of practices. Why do we have beautiful city parks that are meticulously maintained with city tax dollars and yet soup kitchens struggle for donations? Why not plant apple trees and blueberry bushes in the parks? We need community gardens on every block. We need to grow fewer ornamentals and more herbs and food. We need to allow chickens, rabbits, and maybe even goats to be raised within city limits. Why not? My neighbor's dog is noisier than a chicken. We need to take back our food system, get our hands in the dirt and take charge of our own health.
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.