Probiotics and Intestinal Health – Part 1

by Wendy Munro*

Introduction

Our modern lifestyle would seem to suggest that humans largely reliant on western diets are losing
the war against disease. Statistics abound demonstrating the increases in cancer, heart disease,
diabetes and numerous immune deficiency diseases.

On-going research continues to confirm the detrimental effect of our toxic-laden foods, and the overuse
of synthetic chemicals in both the growth and preparation of our food. Our body is designed to
overcome a certain amount of toxicity but over time too often breaks down or no longer functions in
an optimal way.

The cause of the breakdown in health can be attributed to both external and internal influences.
Health is not only determined by the food you eat, but also on your body’s ability to break down
those foods and process them in a way that is useful to the body. When the body is no longer able
to break down the foods that we eat our health becomes greatly impaired, resulting in chronic
diseases, serious illness and disease and even premature death.

Our digestive system is basically a tube that runs through the body. The small intestine is a major
component of that tube and it has two major functions. The first is to allow necessary substances
into the bloodstream in order for the body to use these raw materials to grow and function properly.
The second is a protective one. It prevents toxic substances and large molecules – mainly certain
proteins – from getting into the bloodstream. These large molecules are not handled well by the
body and frequently cause the immune system to produce antibodies against them. This may result
in a series of inflammatory reactions that characterize food allergy reactions.

The immune system may also stimulate the body to produce antibodies against its own tissues,
resulting in auto-immune disease as seen in some forms of arthritis and inflammatory bowel
disease. When large molecules break through the intestinal barrier to enter the bloodstream, the
person is said to have increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut syndrome”.

Nutritional supplements are not the answer. If they were, many of these issues would be resolved,
and people would be more healthy.

More than 99% of all vitamins and minerals sold today are synthetic. They do not contain living
enzymes that are the life force of the plant and animal kingdom. Without enzymes, life cannot exist
and without life, enzymes cannot exist.

The secret to good health lies in maintaining an optimal balance of and between friendly bacteria
and harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract. Bacteria are everywhere. We swallow them with our
food, drink them with water, they are in the air we breathe, on our skin, in our mouths, digestive
tract, sinuses and all other areas of our bodies.

Some of them are very beneficial, some are neutral, and some are quite harmful. Some are
extremely valuable for good health as they work harmoniously with our immune system.
In a healthy colon, there are literally billions of beneficial or “friendly” bacteria. Healthy “friendly”
intestinal bacteria are essential to good intestinal health and without them, overall vibrant health is
quite difficult to achieve and/or maintain.

Under favourable conditions, they multiply at a fast enough rate to keep pace with the large
numbers that are lost during elimination. When they are located in the intestinal tract, they are
referred to as “intestinal flora,” “micro-flora”, “good bacteria”, “friendly/beneficial bacteria” or
sometimes just “flora.”

These friendly bacteria make (or synthesize) many important vitamins in the digestive tract including
Vitamin K and some of the B vitamins. They also help the colon perform the very important task of
maintaining a proper pH or acid balance. It is important to keep levels of antagonistic or “unfriendly”
micro-organisms under control, and it is necessary for the pH to stay in the correct range in order for
other health supporting bacteria to exist.

The appendix is attached to the small intestine and is also connected to the immune systems of the
body. It plays an important role in maintaining friendly bacterial balance in the intestine and bowel.
Without its function, the immune system may become weakened, and it may take much longer to
recover from diseases, illnesses or certain other “conditions”.

Where do we find ‘friendly’ intestinal bacteria?

Research has discovered that thirteen “families” of friendly bacteria (called lactobacillus) populate
the human intestinal system. Each “family” consists of many species which are in proportion and
balance in a healthy intestinal system.

The friendly lactobacillus bacteria are identified as Acidophilus, Delbruekii, Caseii, Bulgaricus,
Causasicus, Fermenti, Plantarum, Brevis, Heleveticus, Lactis, Bifidus, Leichmanni and Bacillus
Coagulans (also known as Sporogenes).

Most raw foods, especially those with chlorophyll, feed these friendly bacteria in the intestines,
whereas cooked and processed foods inherently feed the harmful bacteria.

The ratio of good “friendly” bacteria in the gut, to “harmful” bacteria, is ideally in the vicinity of 80%
good – 20% harmful. Many nutritionists believe that ratio is today reversed in most people, e.g.,
20% good – 80% harmful. This can be due to a variety of factors, primarily the denatured diets we
frequently consume, and the widespread use of antibiotics.

Yoghurt and Kefir have traditionally been a good source of friendly lactobacillus, however
pasteurisation destroys the bacteria for the most part. We have lost the major sources of lactobacillus
and are not receiving the quantities of these bacteria in our diets as we used to.

It is important that the products we use are guaranteed to contain live bacterial cultures at the time
of ingestion.

Allergies may be good indicators of out-of-balance or missing friendly bacteria. For example, many
people appear to be allergic to dairy products. The primary reason is usually that they cannot digest
lactose, (or milk sugar), and this can lead to allergies, headaches, cramps, mucous formation and
many other health problems. Some species of lactobacillus bacteria can digest lactose. When the
lactobacillus levels or ratios are disturbed, or when the bowel ecology becomes out of balance,
digestion is impaired, and health problems may develop.

Another example is that children may suffer one common cold after another because their immune
system has been traumatised due to the use of antibiotics without replacing the lactobacillus
bacteria. It is important to replenish the friendly bacteria as soon as possible after taking antibiotics
in order to maintain good health.

In adults, bad breath and bad body odours are good indications that normal bacteria levels are
critically low. When lactobacillus levels are low in the colon, partially digested food decays,
producing foul gas and toxaemia.

The prevalence of cold sores (herpes simplex), constipation, intestinal gas, diarrhoea, acne,
vaginitis, headache, symptoms of hypoglycaemia, yeast infections and many others, are often signs
of low levels of beneficial intestinal flora.

Research is now revealing that to attain the health benefits attributed to Lactobacilli fermented
foods, live active bacteria need to be consumed on a regular, even daily basis. It is believed the life
span in the human body of these cells is 3 to 10 days. Only the active forms have the ability to
tolerate the acidity of the stomach and the alkalinity of the intestine to benefit our overall health
through a stronger immune system.

Lactobacilli Bacteria alter the pH of the large intestine to a slightly more acidic level, thus inhibiting
or destroying putrefactive bacteria, moulds, mould spores and yeast, particularly Candida. The bad
smell of intestinal gas is usually the result of bad bacteria fermenting undigested food products.
Repopulating the gut with good bacteria can reduce this unwanted population.

Research also suggests that Lactobacillus bacteria is needed to:

  • Reduce cholesterol in the blood.
  • Increase calcium assimilation.
  • Help eliminate bad breath and gas.
  • Reduce high blood pressure.
  • Assist in elimination of ailments such a colon irritation, constipation, diarrhoea and acne.
  • Retard yeast infections.
  • Strengthen the immune system.
  • Manufacture and assimilate B complex vitamins (which includes niacin, biotin, folic acid,
    riboflavin and B12).
  • Help digest proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
  • Produce natural anti-bacterial agents (antibiotics) which inhibit 23 known pathogens.
  • Produce cancer or tumour suppressing compounds.
  • Help alleviate anxiety and stress.
  • Retard proliferation of vaginitis, flu or herpes.
  • Produce certain necessary digestive enzymes.
  • Control the pH factor or acidity-alkaline levels in the intestines.
  • Reduce unhealthy bacteria in the intestinal tract.
  • Detoxify poisonous materials in the diet.
  • Detoxifies hazardous chemicals added to foods, such as nitrates.

Enemies of friendly bacteria:

  • Drugs – especially antibiotics, as one dose can eliminate all friendly bacteria.
  • Alcohol destroys enzymes and lacto bacteria, not to mention actual cells (particularly
    brain cells)
  • Coffee- each cup can destroy 20% of the friendly bacteria.
  • Meat – it feeds the bacillus coli (harmful bacteria), which in turn destroy the good bacteria.
  • Bread – especially white flour bread, or any wheat bread that was baked in an oven.
  • Sugar – includes breakfast cereals, chocolate, cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream, soda pop
    and soft drinks etc.
  • Fried foods – e.g. potato chips, fries, and anything fried in oil.
  • The contraceptive pill.

In Part 2, next month, we will look further at the Lactobacillus bacteria, and what is so special about
Miessence’s certified organic, prebiotic, probiotic fermented superfood blends.

 

* About the Author

Wendy Munro was a psychologist and transpersonal therapist, working in private practice in Western Australia, and QLD. A vegetarian for 30 years, Wendy had 12 years training and practice as a medical scientist, and held a life-long interest in health and nutrition. Unfortunately, Wendy passed from this life in 2003.  Her article above has been edited only slightly to fit a two-part format for our MiCommunity readers.  

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