Dear Seeker of Optimal Health
Let's continue our journey into the world of proactive nutrition. This letter focuses on the inner world of probiotics, and the miniature ecosystem within our body responsible for the absorption and assimilation of nutrients; the amazing small intestine.
What are Probiotics?
The word probiotics means "for life." Probiotics refers to a class of beneficial bacterial organisms that live inside our bodies, primarily in our digestive systems, which provide us with an astonishing variety of important health benefits. These bacteria, like the bacteria that live outside of our bodies, represent a complex interdependent web of life. This web of beneficial bacteria is often referred to as our internal microflora, our inner ecology, and often quite simply as the garden within.
You often hear about ecology, the relationship between organisms and their environment. Within your body there is an entire miniature ecosystem, a microecology, which has a major influence on your health. This inner ecology is made up of the microflora, more than 400 species of microscopic living bacteria, creating an internal environment that is diverse, complex, interrelated, and ever-changing. This population, although minute, is so enormous that the number of beneficial bacterial cells in our body at any one time (when we are healthy that is) is greater than the total number of all the other cells in our body. The microflora are essential to our well-being. These bacteria provide very real beneficial effects. They limit the populations of harmful bacteria. They assist in the process of digestion. They manufacture essential nutrients. When our gut ecology is in balance, we thrive.
– Nigel Plummer, Ph.D, Friendly Flora, from the book, Optimal Digestion –
A Brief History of Probiotics in the Human Diet
There is nothing new about beneficial bacteria in the human diet. For thousands of years cultures around the world have figured out ingenius ways to pickle and ferment various grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Beer, wine, yogurt, kefir and miso are food products familiar to most of us today. These foods and many others like them are thousands of years old. The knowledge of the presence of harmful bacteria, which make up only one percent of all the known bacteria in existence, was not discovered until the early 1800's. For thousands of years human beings were exposed on a daily basis to a variety of bacteria in their environment; in their food, water, air, shelter, clothing, etc. The modern emphasis on antibiotics has created the illusion that all bacteria are bad. Not true. Our over-emphasis on sterile antiseptic environments has overshadowed the knowledge of beneficial bacteria. Today, all of that is changing as we re-discover the many benefits of daily probiotic supplementation.
How do Probiotics Affect Digestion?
Of the 400 or so strains of beneficial bacteria that have been found inside the human digestive system; two strains stand out. Acidophilus is the dominant probiotic working inside the small intestine and bifidus is the dominant probiotic working inside the large intestine. In this letter we will focus on acidophilus and the small intestine. In the next letter we will discuss bifidus and the large intestine. Probiotics affect digestion by assisting in the normal functioning of the organs making up this most important system in our body.
What Happens Inside the Small Intestine?
The small intestine is a long, narrow, and when healthy, very flexible tube about half an inch to an inch in diameter and almost twenty-four feet long. It stretches from the pyloric valve of the stomach to the ileocecal valve. (Which sits at the junction between the small intestine and large intestine; where our appendix resides.) It is composed of three sections; the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. By the time our digested food reaches our small intestine, it should be completely broken down and in a liquid state. I say should because as we learned in our previous letter, without proper chewing and plenty of supplemental digestive enzymes our food does not get completely broken down.
For the next six to twelve hours or so our liquefied food (called chyme) slides back and forth within well defined segments of the small intestine measuring three to six inches. The gurgling sounds we often hear soon after mealtimes is a result of this sliding and swooshing back and forth. Muscular contractions of the intestinal wall, called peristalsis, move-the-chyme-along in a continuous and rhythmically forward motion. The primary purpose of this slow, methodical dance is to create the maximum amount of exposure to the millions and billions of finger-like projections protruding from every square inch of our small intestinal lining; the villi and micro-villi. These villi perform one of the most important and miraculous functions of all. These villi, reach out into the fertile soil of our completely digested meal and begin to extract the nutrients that immediately absorb into the microscopic capillaries near their surface, and rapidly become assimilated through our intestinal lining and into the hepatic vein on the other side which transports our vital micro-nutrients to our liver for a final inspection, detoxification (if necessary), and storage. Without the direct assistance of acidophilus bacteria (and other beneficial bacteria in smaller amounts) by the trillions, this essential function of transformation and inner transportation of nutrients would not take place. It is not taking place normally inside the intestines of millions and millions of people today. Is it, in you?
What Do the Acidophilus Bacteria Do?
Acidophilus bacteria by the trillions inhabit every square inch of intestinal lining, the surface areas of the villi and micro-villi, the tiny spaces between the villi, and permeate and infiltrate our liquefied food slush. Among many other benefits listed below, the acidophilus bacteria finalize the digestion of food particles, breaking them down into the smallest possible sizes, and then provide direct assistance in the mechanical transport to the surface of the micro-villi where absorption and assimilation into the bloodstream takes place. When acidophilus bacteria do not exist in sufficient quantity or quality this miraculous nutrient transfer does not occur. This results in a condition called malabsorption syndrome. This condition adversely affects millions of North Americans today resulting in a very long list of uncomfortable symptoms from headaches, allergies and fatigue; to depression, constipation and skin disorders; and many, many more.
The Benefits of Acidophilus
Not all acidophilus is the same. The benefits listed below apply only to the DDS-1 strain of lactobacillus acidophilus produced by Nebraska Cultures. This is the only form of acidophilus that Cell Tech uses.
1. Acidophilus bacteria help to maintain the proper pH balances throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. This balance is critical. Much gas, cramping and bloating can occur when the acid/alkaline balances are off.
2. Acidophilus bacteria produce important digestive enzymes including lactase, protease and lipase. Lactase breaks down the sugar lactose found in milk, and all products made from milk; butter, cheese, yogurt, etc. Protease breaks down proteins in both animal and vegetable sources; and lipase breaks down fats. When these enzymes are not present in sufficient quantities, the incomplete digestion of these foods results in bad breath, bloating, cramping, gas, and general weakening of the intestine.
3. Acidophilus bacteria produce acidophilin, a powerful natural antibiotic which inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria and opportunistic yeast infections like candida albicans.
4. Acidophilus bacteria secrete B vitamins which are essential in completing the stages of digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients, especially folic acid and B-12.
5. Acidophilus bacteria service and protect the many lymph nodes, called Peyer's Patches that line the small intestine. These lymph nodes are an essential part of our immune system and produce antibodies and release natural killer cells and other immune cells. This represents additional natural artillery that protects us from various kinds of invader organisms inside the gastrointestinal tract.
As if all of the above did not represent enough benefits, additional research by the scientists at Nebraska Cultures has revealed that the DDS-1 acidophilus may also:
Protecting The Garden Within!
- help reduce occurrence of diarrhea and urinary tract and vaginal infections
- help reduce serum cholesterol levels
- help alleviate dermatitis and other skin disorders
Now that we have a greater appreciation for some of the amazing health benefits we receive from supplemental probiotics, like acidophilus; let's take a quick look at some of the harmful influences we can avoid, and some of the helpful influences we can include in the rest of our diet and lifestyle:
Harmful influences include: antibiotics, alcohol, antacids, most prescription and over the counter drugs, all sources of caffeine, coffee, tea, soda, chlorine in our drinking or bathing water, chronic dehydration, lack of exercise, too much worrying, not enough sleep, overeating, too many carbonated beverages, processed foods in general, food additives, preservatives, colorings, enriching agents, bleaching agents, artificial sweeteners, flavor enhancers, excess dairy food consumption, excess meat and processed meat consumption, excess sugar in any form, exposure to environmental pollutants like solvents, cleaning agents, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, eating or drinking anything too cold, eating late in the day, not chewing. . .the list is long!
Helpful influences include: proper daily hydration, chewing our food, moderate daily exercise, enough sleep, stress management, meditation or yoga, open communication lines at home and at work, taking supplemental digestive enzymes, probiotics and superfoods like Cell Tech's Alpha Sun® and Omega Sun® algae, and all the other habits of naturally healthy people. Take one step at a time, one day at a time. Be and become more proactive in your own self-care. Get healthier, and have more fun.
"The balance that exists among our microflora is an example of nature's incredible perfection. When microflora coexist in harmony, a healthy state of symbiosis results and we thrive. When they live not in symbiosis, but in dysbiosis, this disturbed inner ecology often results in a sense of unwellness or even disease."
– Len Saputo, M.D. Harmful Flora, from the book, Optimal Digestion.–
The human body truly is a marvelously designed living organism isn't it? The better care we take of it, the better we become. Simple and obvious to say, not always so simple or obvious to practice. But practice is the key, and the practice of daily acidophilus is very helpful!
Our next letter explores the connection between the probiotic bifidus, and a healthier colon (or large intestine) in general.
Talk to you again soon!
Russell Mariani, M.A.
Health Educator & Nutrition Counselor
If you are new to Simplexity and new to our products or new to the concept of proactive nutrition please take the time to review this information carefully. It is always advisable to consult with your physician before making any change in your diet. The information provided in this letter series has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have any questions, please contact the person whose website you are visiting or who sent you this letter.