How Probiotics Improve Your Nutrition
- One surprising skill probiotics excel at is manufacturing nutrients, which they then release for us to absorb and use for our own needs.
- It’s like having a little dietary supplement factory in your gut producing vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, healthy fats, and other nutrients.
- This helps explain many of the probiotic health benefits researchers have discovered.
The assortment of all the microorganisms that dwell on and inside our body is collectively known as the human microbiome. The average human provides a home to about 100 trillion microbes, the majority of which make their lives in your gut.1 The gut is one of the most densely populated ecosystems on the planet. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that promote intestinal health.
Probiotics have been studied for the beneficial effects in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for fighting intestinal infections, improving lactose digestion, promoting a healthy stress response, blood sugar control, supporting healthy weight, modulating inflammation, and promoting a healthy immune system.2-13 And that’s the shortlist. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine database lists more than 33,000 studies on probiotics.
One surprising skill probiotics excel at is manufacturing nutrients, which they then release for us to absorb and use for our own needs. It’s like having a little dietary supplement factory in your gut producing vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, healthy fats, and other nutrients. And this might explain many of the health benefits probiotics research has discovered. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship, where you give them a home and, in turn, they help you survive. In fact, without healthy gut bacteria, you’d die.14
Butyrate, acetate, and propionate are short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) with powerful health effects. An imbalance of the intestinal microbiome and a decrease in the number of bacteria producing SCFA metabolites often occur in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), type 2 diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, or in cancer patients. 15-18
One approach proposed for promoting intestinal health and healthy gut inflammation is to correct dysbiosis with probiotics that produce butyrate.19 Butyrate is the preferred energy source for colon cells and improves gut barrier function.20 A randomized, double-blind, crossover, and placebo-controlled trial showed that the daily intake of approximately one billion live Bifidobacterium bifidum cells increased butyrate healthy adults.21 This study is remarkable, as it shows that supplementation with a single probiotic species can alter the gut microbiota and short-chain fatty acids.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is a polyunsaturated fat found in animal products. There’s been a great deal of interest in the potential health benefits of CLA. They include supporting a healthy allergic response and promoting a healthy weight, a healthy immune system, and improved blood sugar control.22,23 In a clinical trial of individuals with Crohn’s disease, CLA supplementation decreased the disease activity and improved quality of life.24
Recently, probiotics have been found to produce CLA. Surveys of Bifidobacterium species showed that B. breve was one of only a few species that produced CLA.25-27And in an animal study, supplying B. breve improved the intestinal barrier and decreased inflammation.28
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid is important for neurological health. When folic acid is low it can cause depression, developmental problems in fetuses, called neural tube defects. It can also create problems with red blood cells, causing the red blood cells to be abnormally large and interfere with their ability to carry oxygen.
Streptococcus thermophilus is considered a good producer of folate.29,30 In one study that evaluated eight different strains of Streptococcus thermophilus, all of them produced folate.31 In contrast, most Lactobacillus species do not synthesize folate, except for L. plantarum.30 Importantly, the forms of folates produced are the biologically active forms, tetrahydrofolate (THF) and 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate (5-Met-THF).32
Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA)
GABA is a key nutrient for neurological and intestinal health. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and regulates various processes in the body, including inflammation in the small and large intestines and sleep.33,34
Low GABA is implicated in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and plays important roles in how the body reacts to stress, forms memories, sensory processing, and memory.35,36
It’s because of these important roles GABA plays in the body that it’s included as an ingredient in Sleep Relief and Calm + Clear. Fortunately, for us, healthy gut bacteria can also help us by producing GABA that we can then use. These include Streptococcus thermophilus, L. paracasei, L. bulgaricus, L. plantarum and L. helveticus.37-39
And when probiotic strains were combined, even more, GABA was produced. In one study, when Streptococcus thermophilus was cultured in milk, it created 2.8 mg of GABA per milliliter. When it was combined and cultured with L. rhamnosus, the two together produced 8.3 mg of GABA per milliliter, a nearly 300% increase.40
Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidant. Glutathione acts as a powerful antioxidant, a key protector against pollution and protects cells against injury caused by exposure to pesticides, plastics, benzene, and carbon tetrachloride, as well as heavy metals, cigarette smoke, smog, drugs, solvents, dyes, phenols and nitrates.
Glutathione works to inhibit the formation of free radicals, dangerous agents that suppress the immune system and promote the formation of carcinogens. Free radicals also speed up the aging process, and it is due to this antioxidant activity that glutathione is considered one of the most powerful health-promoting nutrients.
Given the major role this nutrient plays in our health, it’s not surprising that low glutathione has been detected in many conditions. People with intestinal inflammation and diseases of the intestines, such as Crohn’s disease, have been shown to be low in glutathione. Low glutathione has also been reported in people with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, pancreatic inflammation, diabetes, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).41
Recently it’s been discovered that probiotics Streptococcus thermophilus synthesizes glutathione.42,43 Moreover, glutathione biosynthesis is essential for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of Streptococcus. thermophilus.44
As a result of its antioxidant properties, Streptococcus thermophilus was shown to protect mice against acute cadmium toxicity. Among thirteen probiotic bacteria tested, Streptococcus thermophilus was the most powerful at protecting against cadmium. The results of this study “indicated the protective action of S. thermophilus against acute cadmium toxicity as well as their beneficial health effects and suggested its use as a safe and efficacious nutritional dietary supplement.”45
Not surprisingly, there’s synergy between bacteria, with the activity of one strain benefiting another. Glutathione helps protect lactic acid bacteria, including L. bulgaricus against acid, hydrogen peroxide, and other stress conditions.46,47
What You Can Do
- Eat more plants. Plants contain dietary fiber. Green leafy vegetables also contain folic acid. A high-fiber diet balances your gut bacteria and promotes a healthy microbiome. Consume at least 30 grams of dietary fiber per day.
- Sleep. Sleep deprivation contributes to gut dysbiosis. Getting enough sleep is crucial for gut health. If you’re having trouble sleeping, take Sleep Relief and follow the recommendations in my blog, Your Checklist to Beat Insomnia.
- Reduce Stress. Chronic stress has also been shown to contribute to dysbiosis. To help you gut rebalance, reduce your stress by taking Calm + Clear and following the recommendations in my blog, Top Natural Approaches to Stress.
- Take Belly Rescue™ to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Belly Rescue is a potent multi-strain probiotics and prebiotics blend that delivers 25 billion colony forming units (CFU) per capsule from 15 strains of health-promoting bacteria. Belly Rescue includes five species of Bifidobacterium, nine species of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These species promote healthy digestion, skin, mood, immunity, inflammation, liver health, weight and blood sugar. All species used in Belly Rescue have been identity-verified using DNA-fingerprinting technology.
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2 Inturri R, Stivala A, Furneri PM, Blandino G. Growth and adhesion to HT-29 cells inhibition of Gram-negatives by Bifidobacterium longum BB536 e Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 alone and in combination. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2016;20(23):4943-4949.
3 O’Mahony L, McCarthy J, Kelly P, et al. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in irritable bowel syndrome: symptom responses and relationship to cytokine profiles. Gastroenterology. 2005;128(3):541-551.
4 Bonfrate L, Di Palo DM, Celano G, et al. Effects of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in IBS patients. Eur J Clin Invest. 2020;50(3):e13201.
5 Caviglia GP, Tucci A, Pellicano R, et al. Clinical Response and Changes of Cytokines and Zonulin Levels in Patients with Diarrhoea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treated with Bifidobacterium Longum ES1 for 8 or 12 Weeks: A Preliminary Report. J Clin Med. 2020;9(8).
6 Pinto-Sanchez MI, Hall GB, Ghajar K, et al. Probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2017;153(2):448-459.e448.
7 Lewis ED, Antony JM, Crowley DC, et al. Efficacy of Lactobacillus paracasei HA-196 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175 in Alleviating Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2020;12(4).
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