What are probiotics? Essential “For Life”
The word probiotics is a compound which comes from two Greek words, the word “pro” meaning “for” and “bios” meaning “life”, therefore “favorable to life” or bacteria that can improve our health. The definition of the term has evolved through the years, from the time it was first used by Lilly and Stillwell in 1965 to describe “substances secreted by one microorganism which stimulates the growth of another” to how it was defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) in 2002, who stated that probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a benefit on the host”.
Probiotics have been used for centuries and data supporting the use of probiotics for health benefits is numerous, ranging from the reduction of Helicobacter pylori infection, reduction of allergies and colds, relief from constipation, relief from irritable bowel syndrome, bone density and stability, brain function, chronic fatigue syndrome, reduction of cholesterol and cancer prevention. It is also worthy to note that probiotics were widely reported to reduce the incidence of infectious diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Some other health effects attributed to probiotics are related to preventing skin conditions, gingivitis, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, respiratory infections and colic in babies.
Bacteria in our body
To understand better the role of probiotics we’ll briefly talk about the bacteria living inside us and the normal flora of the gastrointestinal tract. The human body is also comprised of bacterial cells. It is estimated that there are 500 to 100,000 species of bacteria living inside our body. But let’s start from the beginning. The womb in which a baby grows is sterile and during the birthing process, the infant is exposed to bacteria which colonize his/her digestive tract after birth. Handling and feeding of the infant after birth leads to the establishment of a stable normal flora on the skin, oral cavity, and intestinal tract. Throughout his life, an individual’s digestive tract is exposed to many microorganisms and sometimes an imbalance can occur in gut flora which leads to illnesses. Some of the bacteria in our body can be beneficial by helping us obtain and break down nutrients, while others can be infectious, causing harm. The latter is called parasitic bacteria and due to the fact that they can cause different types of disease, they are considered pathogenic bacteria. The growth of pathogenic bacteria can be controlled however by means of competitive exclusion provided by the presence of useful or friendly bacteria.
The composition of the bacterial flora of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of humans is influenced by age, diet, cultural conditions, and the use of antibiotics. The latter greatly perturb the composition of the intestinal flora and open the door to infection or pathologic overgrowth. If the intestinal flora is suppressed by antibiotics, the individual becomes much more susceptible and can be infected. Therefore, an imbalance in normal flora can favor both infections by exogenous pathogens and overgrowth by endogenous pathogens.
Good bacteria vs. bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract
The gastrointestinal tract is five to six times our height; it starts from the mouth and ends with the anus. The food we eat travels from the mouth into the throat, the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The first barrier of our gastrointestinal tract is the saliva which suppresses bacterial overgrowth. On the one hand, the continuous flow of saliva increased by the muscular activity of the lips and tongue removes a large number of potentially harmful microorganisms from teeth and mucosal surfaces due to the fact that it contains enzymes and antibodies which destroy many bacterial species before they can cause disease. On the other hand, the constant flow of saliva removes bacteria from the mouth moving them into the stomach which is a hostile environment for bacteria due to the production of hydrochloric acid. However, some illnesses or medications decrease the stomach’s ability to produce acids which in turn can cause colonization by bacteria. After food is mixed with acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach, it is passed into the first part of the small intestine (small bowel) via the pyloric sphincter which contracts to close the stomach.
The small intestine is about 20 feet long, it has a diameter of about an inch and it is the section of the digestive tract where the majority of food digestion and nutrient absorption takes place. It is divided into the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. The duodenum is the section where the majority of the chemical breakdown of nutrients takes place. The duodenum receives digestive juices and enzymes from the pancreas and liver. Nutrients are then broken down into small parts and absorbed through the wall of the jejunum and dropped into the blood stream so that they can be carried to the cells. The terminal section of the small intestine, namely the ileum is an additional area for the absorption of nutrients. Disturbances in gut immune function and anatomical abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract diminished gastric acid secretion and small intestine dysmotility increases the likelihood of developing Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, a disease defined as excessive bacteria in the small intestine. The duodenum and the jejunum are scantly populated with about 10,000 organisms per milliliter of contents. In the duodenum, gram-negative species are not normally found. In the ileum, however, there is a varied and permanent population of organisms, between 100,000 and 10 million organisms per milliliter and here gram-negative organisms begin to outnumber gram-positive organisms, unlike the early segments of the small intestine where predominant organisms are largely gram-positive. In the ileum, the bacteria found include Streptococci, Bacteroides, a variety of yeasts and enterobacteria and lactobacilli.
The most important friendly bacteria in the small intestine are represented by the Lactobacillus family which plays a key role in a well-balanced microflora. Ongoing research continues to find that these friendly bacteria appear to directly act on the immune system. The Lactobacillus family includes Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Paracasei, Lactobacillus Salivarius, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and so on. It is important to emphasize here the role of Lactobacillus acidophilus which prevents pathogenic bacteria to set up colonies. Further beneficial effects of these friendly bacteria will be presented in the description of the product in question.
The small intestine represents, therefore, a transition area between the stomach and the large intestine (colon or large bowel). The ileocecal valve separates the small intestine from the large intestine in order for microorganisms not to pass from the colon to the small intestine. The large intestine is about 5 feet long and about 3 inches in diameter. This is where we find the highest concentration of bacteria, more than 350 species ranging between 100 billion to 1,000 billion bacterial microorganisms per milliliter. The friendly bacteria found in the large intestine include Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Bifidobacterium infantis. When bifidobacteria are present in sufficient number they compete with pathogenic invaders and force them out of the body. Bifidobacteria also produce B-complex vitamins which are essential to life. Overgrowth of certain strains of Bacterioides, Clostridium difficult, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis can cause serious intestinal disorders. However, using probiotics which contain good bacteria can prevent their overgrowth as they occupy space and their presence makes it more difficult for pathogens to spread. Moreover, they restore natural flora which produces anti-bacterial products to eliminate bad bacteria. They are therefore critical in the natural development of the immune system.
Role of probiotics
All in all, the first conclusion we need to draw up to this point is that many bacteria are beneficial aiding in nutrient absorption, stimulating growth, providing protection against pathogens, producing antibiotics, and even aiding in the muscular activity of the small intestine. However, some microbes are parasitic and cause diseases when there is an excess of bad bacteria. Good bacteria must be therefore enhanced in order for bad bacteria to be excluded. This is where probiotics come into play in order to improve the balance. They prevent the overgrowth of toxic bacteria by competing for attachment sites and nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract.
Where to find
Familiar sources of probiotics include yogurt, some fermented soft cheeses, like Gouda, Kefir, naturally fermented pickles and so on. However, a number of factors can significantly impact the survival of probiotics in foods. These include manufacturing processes, packaging, and conditions of product storage. Therefore, although some foods contain probiotics, the tiny amount that survives the stomach is way too small to have a probiotic effect in the intestines and doesn’t contain enough microorganisms to help our digestive systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that any product named “yogurt” must contain some Lactobacilli such as L. Bulgaricus. Unfortunately, some manufacturers pasteurize the product which kills the good bacteria or adds sweeteners that reduce their probiotic effect which is why probiotic supplements are necessary for the treatment of a variety of diseases and imbalances in gut bacteria.
Choosing the right probiotic supplement
With a product that carefully combines probiotic strains, you can achieve best results in establishing and maintaining natural microflora. For optimum results, we recommend Essential Cultures Probiotics which is a health supplement manufactured by Leaf Origin that contains 15 different probiotic strains. Essential Cultures product is delivered in the form of capsules specially designed in order for a large amount of the friendly bacteria to reach the small intestine and especially the large intestine, unlike powder probiotics which are more effective in the mouth and esophagus.
Essential Cultures Ingredients
As already stated above the main health-enhancing bacteria are the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli belonging to the lactic acid bacteria group. Their therapeutic effects have been proven in human and animal studies and we can now state beyond a shadow of a doubt that they promote gastrointestinal health and enhance immune functions.
Keeping this in mind, Essential Cultures Probiotics by Leaf Origin contains 30 billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs) of the most important strains of bacteria that can prevent or minimize adhesion of pathogens, as it follows:
- Lactobacillus Acidophilius has been found to protect the digestive system from bad bacteria causing infection and disease. Unfortunately, Lactobacillus Acidophilius is rooted out by antibiotics along with the harmful bacteria that they target which in turn leads to serious outbreaks of numerous disorders, including yeast infections in the body. In order to re-establish the balance of the microflora the best practice following a regimen of antibiotics. Various studies have confirmed its benefits in treating yeast infections, such as Candida albicans, being a natural way of enhancing the body’s immune system and the growth of friendly bacteria. It also showed promising results in the reduction of high cholesterol levels and it has improved lactose absorption in lactose sensitive individuals.
- Lactobacillus Plantarum keeps pathogenic disease-causing microorganisms from flourishing by creating a barrier which prevents the intestinal lining from being attacked by bad bacteria. It has enormous benefits on our health benefiting the body in many ways. It has the ability to quickly digest protein and liquefy gelatin, thus preventing food allergies. It acts as one of the best probiotics for aiding intestines with digestion and has the ability to absorb and maintain important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. It also performs the functions of regulating immunity and stomach inflammation. Fortunately, studies have shown that Lactobacillus plantarum is resistant to most antibiotics.
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus has properties that are beneficial to the intestinal tract. Many clinical trials have determined that it helps build a superior immune system due to its ability to stimulate the production of antibodies and to survive in extremely acidic environments.
- Lactobacillus Casei has been reported to control diarrhea, enhance immune responses and decrease risk for bladder cancer. Researchers have found that treatments which include Lactobacillus case give the immune system a significant boost reducing the risk of rotavirus infections, colds and influenza, viral infections, allergy symptoms, asthma symptoms, candida overgrowth, high blood pressure and also cervix tumors when used in combination radiation therapy.
- Lactobacillus Salivarius exerts a range of therapeutic properties, of utmost importance being the immunomodulatory effects, namely establishing an anti-inflammatory environment in the host, like in cases of H. pylori infections.
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subs. bulgaricus is one of the first probiotic strains ever studied. It was first isolated by Russian Nobel Prize winner, Ilya Mechnikov, around 1882 when he discovered the probiotic’s role in beneficial digestion. Since then, it has been shown to stimulate immunological activity and balance gut microflora. Lactobacillus Bulgaricus has exhibited antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli. It is of use for those who suffer from lactose intolerance, whose digestive systems lack the enzymes to break down lactose to simpler sugars. It also decreases triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- Lactobacillus Paracasei is documented to have a wide pH and temperature range and complements the growth of Lactobacillus Acidophilius mentioned above. According to a study published in “Nutrition Journal” in 2009, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome experienced relief from symptoms by using probiotics containing Lactobacillus paracasei. It has also been determined that Lactobacillus paracasei decreases H. pylori colonization, being effective in alleviation of gastrointestinal pathogenic bacterial diseases.
- Lactobacillus (Lactococcus) Lactis colonizes the gastrointestinal tract by inhibiting the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. This probiotic is frequently taken by those diagnosed with chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
- Lactobacillus Brevis is used to treat vaginitis, urinary tract infections, to promote better immune function, and as an aid in overall digestive health. During digestion, lactobacillus brevis converts carbohydrates into lactic acid and other helpful substrates which create an environment with consistently low pH. Many pathogenic bacteria cannot tolerate this acidity and are thereby unable to survive and colonize.
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum directly competes with Candida and yeast overgrowths in our bodies. Candida infections are commonly associated with low concentrations of B. Bifidum. Research has shown that Bifidobacterium Bifidum aids in the synthesis of B-complex vitamins and vitamin K in the intestines.
- Bifidobacterium Longum is very helpful because it prevents diarrhea in antibiotic treated patients, it reduces cholesterol and alleviates lactose intolerance symptoms. It also ferments sugars into lactic acid and this helps to lower the pH in the intestines.
- Bifidobacterium Infantis is sometimes used as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. A study sponsored by P&G Health Sciences Institute and published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reported the beneficial effects on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Taking these bacteria relieved gas, bowel dysfunction, problems with incomplete bowel movements and straining in patients with irritable bowel syndrome without causing any significant side effects. It may also be useful for treating traveler’s diarrhea and ulcerative colitis and can reduce symptoms of lung infections in children.
- Bifidobacterium Lactis is a very powerful transient probiotic bacteria that enhances immunity, fights tumor growth, improves digestion and can lower cholesterol. It is excellent for the stomach and intestinal tract as it is very effective in resisting acid digestion, preventing diarrhea, relieving constipation and decreasing chronic pain and inflammation of the colon. Moreover, it is beneficial in preventing and treating atopic eczema in children with food allergies.
- Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus has reduced risks of AAD (antibiotic-associated diarrhea) and has been proved to break down lactose.
Most benefits of the above-mentioned probiotics have been demonstrated through clinical trials but the definite proof comes from its more and more prevalent use all over the world in spite of the fact that it is rather new on the market.
Side effects and use
When ingested orally probiotics are generally considered safe and are well tolerated. No side effects were associated with this product. Essential Cultures probiotics are contained in vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free capsules. They are 100% all-natural and completely free of synthetics, fillers, binders, preservatives or other potentially harmful components. However, If you are pregnant or nursing a child, or if you considering giving a child a dietary supplement, such as probiotics, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider. One capsule should be taken daily during the meal.
Where to buy Essential Cultures Probiotics
Essential Cultures is available online. Before making a purchase read carefully the terms and conditions and the refund policy of each website that promises to deliver the product in order to avoid future inconveniences. For a safe purchase you can always buy Essential Cultures below:
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