About Probiotics
How Probiotics Work
Uses For Health Purposes
What The Science Says
Microbes Role In GI Tract
The Benefits Of A Healthy Intestinal Tract
The Best Probiotic Formulas
Guidelines For Taking Probiotics
Where To Purchase Probiotics

About Probiotics

Probiotics were defined by a group of experts convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as "live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host". Most probiotics are bacteria, which are small, single-celled organisms. Bacteria are categorized by scientists with genus, species and strain names.

How Probiotics Work

To understand how probiotics work, it is important to understand a little about the microbiology and physiology of the human gastrointestinal tract.

Human beings, like all animals, play host to many types and high numbers of microbes on our skin, in our mouths and all the way through our gastrointestinal tract. In fact, it has been estimated that there are more microbes associated with the human body (about 1014, or 100,000,000,000,000 bacterial cells) than there are human cells in it (about 1013). In addition to this very large number of bacteria, there also is a very large diversity of bacteria. It has been estimated that more than 1000 different species, or types, of bacteria make their homes on humans.

It is not surprising that microbes have been found to play an important role in human health. Most of these bacteria are not harmful, and in fact contribute positively to normal human growth and development. But some of these bacteria can have negative influences. It is therefore important that the balance of microbes be maintained to favor the beneficial bacteria over the potentially harmful ones.

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Uses For Health Purposes

There are several reasons that people are interested in probiotics for health purposes.

The world is full of microorganisms (including bacteria), and so are people's bodies--in and on the skin, in the gut, and in other orifices. Friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protection against microorganisms that could cause disease, and to the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. Each person's mix of bacteria varies. Interactions between a person and the microorganisms in his body, and among the microorganisms themselves, can be crucial to the person's health and well-being. This bacterial "balancing act" can be thrown off in these ways:

1. By antibiotics, when they kill friendly bacteria in the gut along with unfriendly bacteria. Some people use probiotics to try to offset side effects from antibiotics like gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Similarly, some use them to ease symptoms of lactose intolerance--a condition in which the gut lacks the enzyme needed to digest significant amounts of the major sugar in milk, and which also causes gastrointestinal symptoms.

2. "Unfriendly" microorganisms such as disease-causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites can also upset the balance. Researchers are exploring whether probiotics could halt these unfriendly agents in the first place and/or suppress their growth and activity in conditions like:

  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease)
  • Infection with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a bacterium that causes most ulcers and many types of chronic stomach inflammation
  • Tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • Vaginal infections
  • Stomach and respiratory infections that children acquire in daycare
  • Skin infections

3. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Advil, Motrin, Midol, etc. are destructive to intestinal flora.

4. Chlorine in the drinking water not only serves to kill bacteria in the water; it is equally devastating to the colonies of beneficial bacteria living in the intestines.

5. Radiation and chemotherapy are devastating to your inner bacterial environment.

6. Most meat, chicken, and dairy that you eat (other than organic) has a lot of antibiotics, which destroys the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

7. A diet high in meats and fats, because they take so long to break down in the human body, promotes the growth of the harmful bacteria.

8. Constipation allows harmful bacteria to hang around longer, which allows them to proliferate.

9. Cigarettes, alcohol, and stress are also major culprits.

Another part of the interest in probiotics stems from the fact there are cells in the digestive tract connected with the immune system. If you alter the microorganisms in a person's intestinal tract (as by introducing probiotic bacteria), you can affect the immune system's defenses.

Some infections, once thought self-limiting or readily treatable with antibiotics, are now recognized as more serious health threats. Multiple antibiotic resistances are a continual threat in the battle against once-treatable infections. And in non-industrialized nations, infections such as rotavirus claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of infants yearly. Prevention of infections before they occur is clearly the better alternative. Probiotics are a safe, cost-effective approach that adds a barrier against microbial infection.

Many researchers now believe that declining levels of friendly bacteria in the intestinal tract may actually mark the onset of chronic degenerative disease and a suppressed immune system.

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What The Science Says

Scientific understanding of probiotics and their potential for preventing and treating health conditions is at an early stage, but moving ahead. In November 2005, a conference that was cofunded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and convened by the American Society for Microbiology explored this topic.

According to the conference report, some uses of probiotics for which there is some encouraging evidence from the study of specific probiotic formulations are as follows:

  • To treat diarrhea (this is the strongest area of evidence, especially for diarrhea from rotavirus)
  • To prevent and treat infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
  • To treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • To reduce recurrence of bladder cancer
  • To shorten how long an intestinal infection lasts that is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium difficile
  • To prevent and treat pouchitis (a condition that can follow surgery to remove the colon)
  • To prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children

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Microbes Role In GI Tract

It is known that microbes in the large intestine complete the digestion process on any food components that were not digested in the small intestine. There is evidence of non-digestive microbial activities as well. Certain intestinal microbes are known to produce vitamins. Also, in studies done with special microbe-free laboratory animals, evidence is strong that without normal microbial populations, the immune system functions poorly, and resistance to pathogenic bacteria is greatly reduced.

The gastrointestinal tract also serves to bridge the gap between "inside the body" and "outside the body". Along this interface, microbes and foreign antigens colonizing or passing through the GI tract interact with important components of the immune system. This interaction serves to prime or stimulate the immune system for optimal functioning. Normal microbial inhabitants of the GI tract also reinforce the barrier function of the intestinal lining, decreasing passage of bacteria or antigens from the intestine into the blood stream. This function has been suggested to decrease infections and possibly allergic reactions to food antigens.

The Benefits Of A Healthy Intestinal Tract

The benefits of a probiotically optimized intestinal tract include:

  • Lowered cholesterol
  • Inhibition of cancer
  • Protection against food poisoning
  • Protection against stomach ulcers
  • Protection against lactose intolerance and casein intolerance
  • Enhanced immunity
  • Protection against many harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi
  • Protection against candida overgrowth and vaginal yeast infections
  • Prevention and correction of constipation and diarrhea, ileitis and colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and a whole range of other digestive tract dysfunctions
  • Improvement in the health and appearance of the skin
  • Better nutrition from improved absorption and the internal generation of B vitamins.
  • Protection against vaginosis and yeast infections

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The Best Probiotic Formulas

A good probiotic formula is absolutely essential for long-term intestinal health, and long-term parasite control. When choosing a probiotic, look for the following characteristics:

  • Not all strains of beneficial bacteria are created equal. For each type of bacteria, there are recognized super strains. Choose a formula that uses only recognized super strains of beneficial bacteria -- clearly identified as such on the label or in the company literature.
  • Make sure the formula you choose includes the all-important supernatant -- the medium the culture was grown in. The supernatant, contains a multitude of beneficial byproducts of the growth process, including: vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and immune stimulators.
  • Then there's the question of how many live microorganisms are left in your formula when you actually use it. Pick up any probiotic formula, look at the label, and you'll see something like: "Contains 13 billion live organisms per capsule at time of manufacture." And that's the problem: "at time of manufacture."

    The die-off rate for probiotics can be astounding. Most formulas will experience a die-off approaching log 3 within just 60 days of manufacture. that means that the 13 billion you see on the label may be down to 13 million, or less, by the time you use it. Heat and moisture accelerate the process, which is why most manufacturers recommend keeping your probiotic supply refrigerated.

There are many beneficial bacteria that can be contained in a good probiotic, but two are preeminent. Look for a formula based on these two:

  • L. acidophilus resides primarily in the small intestine and produces a number of powerful antimicrobial compounds in the gut (including: acidolin, acidolphilin, lactocidin, and bacteriocin). These compounds can inhibit the growth and toxin producing capabilities of some 23 known disease-causing pathogens (including: campylobacter, listeria, and staphylococci), as well as reduce tumor growth and effectively neutralize or inhibit carcinogenic substances.

    It's also important to note that L. acidophilus is the primary beneficia bacteria in the vaginal tract. When the presence of the acidophilus is compromised, this allows the bad guys such as Gardnerella vaginalis or E. coli or Chlamydia to take over.

  • Many researchers believe that declining levels of bifidobacteria in the large intestine actually mark the eventual onset of chronic degenerative disease. Bifidobacteria benefit the body in a number of ways. They: Consume old fecal matter, Have the ability to remove cancer-forming elements (or the enzymes which lead to their formation), and protect against the formation of liver, colon, and mammary gland tumors.

More is not always better. Too many beneficial bacteria in one formula may find the bacteria competing with each other before they can establish themselves in separate areas of the intestinal tract. However, there are several other bacteria that are extremely beneficial in any probiotic formula.

  • L salivarius helps digest foods in the intestinal tract and makes vital nutrients more assimilable. It also works to eat away encrusted fecal matter throughout the entire colon; it helps repair the intestinal tract by providing needed enzymes and essential nutrients; and it adheres to the intestinal wall, thereby forming a living matrix that helps protect the mucosal lining.
  • L. rhamnosus is a powerful immune stimulator. It can increase the natural killing activity of spleen cells, which may help to prevent tumor formation. It boosts the ability of the body to destroy foreign invaders and other harmful matter by three times normal activity; and has been shown to increase circulating antibody levels by six to eight times.
  • L. plantarum has the ability to eliminate thousands of species of pathogenic bacteria. It also as extremely high adherence potential for epithelial tissue and seems to favor colonizing the same areas of the intestinal tract that E. coli prefers -- in effect, serving to crowd E. coli out of the body. At one time, plantarum was a major part of our diets (found in sourdough bread, sauerkraut, etc.), but is now virtually nowhere to be found.
  • Note: a good probiotic formulation will usually contain fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. For some friendly bacteria, such as the Bifidus, FOS can increase their effectiveness by a factor of 1,000 times or more!!

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Guidelines For Taking Probiotics

Start slowly. When you first start using a probiotic supplement, there is a chance that you will precipitate a die-off of bad bacteria in your intestinal tract. This can lead to gas, stomach rumblings, and cramping for up to three weeks.

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A Probiotic Powerhouse that Packs 60 Billion Good Bacteria in EVERY Capsule.

  • Bifidobacterium lactis: a friendly bacteria often found in yogurt that is known to help stimulate immune responses.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: guards the health of your entire digestive tract.*
  • Bifidobacterium longum: keeps your digestive system running smoothly, and helps enhance your immune system.
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum: helps promote a healthy balance of flora in your intestine.* What's more, this organism is especially helpful for enhancing immune response.
  • Lactobacillus casei: works with other helpful organisms, and helps to encourage the growth of other "good" bacteria.
  • Lactobacillus plantarum: helps to ensure that the nutrients in vitamins and supplements are getting to your cells.

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Benefits of Complete Probiotics

  • The product does NOT need refrigeration, making it convenient to take anywhere.
  • This concentrated formula brings you 6 different "good" strains, plus the well known Kyo-Dophilus® blend, so your GI tract gets many varieties of helpful organisms in one dose.
  • This formula is manufactured to prevent heat, air and moisture from having an effect on the organisms.
  • When you take this concentrated formula after a meal, you're delivering helpful bacteria into a stomach with a more favorable pH. These strains are known to survive and reach the small intestine.
  • Nourished by NutraFlora® short chain FOS, helpful bacteria have a good supply of "food" they need to grow and thrive.

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Where To Purchase Probiotics

It is recommeded to take a couple different probiotics and rotate them every seven days. I have done a lot of research on the best pricing and this is what I recommend for adults: Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics is a potent and high quality probiotic, you can purchase it at Another probiotic is Primal Defense by Garden of Life. It can be purchased at The last one is Ultra Flora IB and you can purchase it at

For infants and children you can rotate Latero-flora by O'Donnell Formulas, (these are what Dr. Biamonte recommends and what I have used on my kids) you can purchase it at It can be rotated with BifoViden by Metagenics, and you can purchase that at Rotate these 2 every 7 days. Another option for kids 3 yrs and older is Primal Defense Kids by Garden of Life, which can be purchased at

When you start to give the probiotics to infants or children start out with just a pinch. You can put it in their cereal, milk, or even water. Make sure that what you are putting it in is room temperature, so you do not kill the probiotics. Each day you can build up slowly until they are taking 1-2 capsules.

For adults, also start out with a small amount and build up. With Primal Defense, use 1/4 of a capsule the first time, and then build up from there. Ultra Flora Plus capsules can be opened up and put in cereal or water. Build up to taking 5-7 capsules a day, which can be broken up into smaller amounts taken throughout the day. Keep the BifoViden, Latero-flora, & Ultra Flora Plus refrigerated at all times. Primal Defense does not need to be refrigerated.

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