12

votes

What is the best way to re-populate the gut with beneficial flora?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 06, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Did Paleolithic people consume fermented foods in any form and if not, how on earth did they keep their gut flora healthy? There is a train-of-thought that says we must eat at least some fermented food in order for the gut to stay populated with good beasties, but I cannot see how this could have been the original blueprint for humankind, if fermented food was never available.

I was wondering if eating grains upsets the delicate (acid/alkaline?) balance in the stomach and intestines, allowing 'unwanted' bacteria to take over, (also giving them something to feed on) so that when people DID turn to an agrarian diet they were obliged to eat fermented food in order for the flora to be restored to optimum levels? (and so, of course the technology for fermenting food was being developed alongside agriculture)

So, if one has cut out grains and is eating an exclusively 'paleo' diet, will the flora of the gut slowly re-establish its own balance with just fat and protein and if so, how long can this be expected to take to happen on average and is there anything we can take to support it whilst it is re-balancing itself?

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on August 04, 2012
at 04:21 AM

@Cave Man Mind they resist acidity up to a certain point. They are NOT capable of living in the (hopefully) strong acidic conditions of the stomach. This is why number of bacteria in the stomach is generally under 1000, which is a minuscule number when you consider that your intestines may hold TRILLIONS of bacteria.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on March 25, 2012
at 08:11 AM

Josh - your comment made me laugh out loud - love it!

E242ecf1fecbac866894059f5304b4c6

(318)

on March 24, 2012
at 11:36 PM

-1 for your know-it-all attitude and I wish I could subtract another for "stumic"

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:58 PM

If you are eating bacteria from yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables etc. they are acid resistant. That is why they could live in vinegar-like environments just fine. So that is untrue. How could anyone get food poisoning if all bacteria were killed in the stomach? Probably should have googled "bacteria + stomach acid" before posting here...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:56 PM

Bacteria that is in yogurt or fermented vegetables is acid-resistant, otherwise it wouldn't have been able to live to ferment that stuff in the first place. So it goes fine down your stomach. And while the capsules of probiotics protect from stomach acid, numerous studies show a relatively low viability of bacteria when encapsulated. I would go for the real thing first, probiotic pills as a last resort because it will have less bang for your buck.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:52 PM

Note: hygiene hypothesis is strongly tied to parasitic worms, so not just bacteria (worms probably more important for preventing allergies than bacteria exposure)!

Db4dfe336bd8e47b627818c4e6655117

(10)

on January 13, 2012
at 06:50 PM

You might want to consider "real food" sources of probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and so on, over pills. Yogurt feeds and supports the positive wee beasties you already have. Kefir, which has 5-6 times the live cultures of yogurt, and more diversity, actually get new, beneficial bacteria to take up residence. Supercharge your gut with real, live food.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on May 15, 2011
at 08:43 PM

good point CMM .

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on May 15, 2011
at 08:41 PM

another great answer Melissa, the paleo man diet had to be richer in bacteria than our over-sanitized culture.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on September 15, 2010
at 03:25 AM

I don't think we can state these kinds of things with such certainty. One variable would be time- do these studies look at people after a year of supplementation? The big variable here would be how much bacteria are taken- enough new bacteria could certainly overtake existing bacteria. Traditionally this would mean consuming large amounts of feces. Here you can see someone who wrote a book on healing the gut advocating "therapeutic doses" of probiotics that causes a "die off" of existing bacteria that must be consumed for 6 months. http://www.gapsdiet.com/Bio-Kult_Probiotic.html

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 11, 2010
at 09:48 AM

Yes, I said prEbiotics... ;)

4c8a9bec5a27b66b28d3c5cddeb70e93

on March 07, 2010
at 10:41 PM

most come in capsules that are designed to survive the journey from through the stomach to your intestines

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 07, 2010
at 03:31 PM

Peter is complaining about prebiotics, not probiotics. Some probiotics contain prebiotics, like inulin, which are supposedly food for good bacteria, but I would avoid them.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 07, 2010
at 01:34 PM

Does any-one know of any hard examples where foods that fulfil 2 (encourage good bacteria) don't also fulfil 1 (encourage negative bacteria)? It seems that a lot of the prebiotics that are encouraged for healthy bacteria are equally food for unhealthy bacteria- Peter (http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2007/11/selling-fiber-and-bacteria.html) seems sceptical and none too keen on inulin either (http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search/label/Fiber%20inulin%20and%20cancer). That said it does seem that there's something especially bad about sugar, making pathogenic bacteria active.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 07, 2010
at 02:50 AM

Great points, Acton and Melissa. I guess I'm just used to seeing pediatric studies, the results of which are admittedly mixed regarding probiotics. Also, they use clinical endpoints and usually do not do stool flora cultures. Cheers,

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 06, 2010
at 09:36 PM

Yeah, probiotics still have a benefit, it just might go away if you stop taking them.

6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on March 06, 2010
at 09:11 PM

From the perspective of bacteria, minutes are long spans of time; what might seem transient to us appears stable to them. I'm not saying that introduction of new organisms might not be significant, but that the establishment of flora that is optimally adapted to the environment is inevitable. There are thousands or millions of species of bacteria in residence in the gut ready to proliferate when conditions are favorable.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 06, 2010
at 08:45 PM

If you search pubmed, you will find this is true. There have been very few documented cases of probiotic bacteria actually taking up residence in the gut. That's why early childhood is so important.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 06, 2010
at 08:21 PM

Acton, your argument is probably true for closed, steady state systems, but not necessarily for open, chaotic systems like the gut. The gut environment is constantly changing, and one of the changes is a constant stream of novel and non-novel organisms from upstream. Some bacteria can form spores, but it strains credulity to think that the gut retains samples of all organisms it's ever seen, or that new organisms can't be introduced from above. For example, it takes only ten Shigella dysenteriae organisms to cause an infection (I realize that Shigella is not flora, but you see my point).

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11 Answers

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14
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 06, 2010
at 05:09 PM

The paleolithic environment and the food they ate was probably richer in bacteria than ours is. This goes along nicely with the hygiene hypothesis, which posits that excessive hygiene is responsible for many modern diseases. Multiple studies have shown that children raised in a dirtier environment have fewer allergies for example. Paleolithic people would have been exposed to dirt from birth and their births would have been vaginal, which is also linked to increased gut biodiversity.

Paleolithic people would have also eaten foods that are thrown away in modern agriculture...fruits with bruises rich in bacteria for example. I'm convinced their diet was more probiotic then ours without them having to do much intentional fermentation. That said, many modern hunter-gatherers ferment various things intentionally for the alcoholic buzz.

Unfortunately, I don't live in a dirty forest, so I get lots of bacteria from commercial probiotics and lacto fermented vegetables (ginger carrots are my favorite). I also don't feed the baddie bacteria that made me miserable for so many years.

They seem to like grains and sugar. When I've gone off the paleo diet I notice them coming back...I get gas and my stool is loose and floaty. Getting better first and foremost an issue of starving them by eating low carb. Probiotic support is helpful, but perhaps not required and I don't do it until the bad bacteria seem to have settled down because I don't want to risk fueling a fire down there. There is strong evidence that whatever probiotic you are taking is unlikely to take up permanent residence. The gut bacteria ecosystem is strongly established in early childhood, which is why you have to keep taking probiotics to keep getting their benefits.

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on May 15, 2011
at 08:41 PM

another great answer Melissa, the paleo man diet had to be richer in bacteria than our over-sanitized culture.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:52 PM

Note: hygiene hypothesis is strongly tied to parasitic worms, so not just bacteria (worms probably more important for preventing allergies than bacteria exposure)!

8
5841391284e7af8c495c54bd90d3a795

(2764)

on March 06, 2010
at 05:17 PM

Another possibility is that they ate the guts of the animals they killed for food.

6
4c8a9bec5a27b66b28d3c5cddeb70e93

on March 07, 2010
at 10:46 PM

"There is between 100 million and 3 billion bacteria in one gram (1g) of healthy top soil."

I think Grok would have been ingesting huge amounts of soil/organic matter when you consider the lack of cleaning, living in a house, etc

535633b57c4a4940d1e913e7a12ee791

(1013)

on May 15, 2011
at 08:43 PM

good point CMM .

6
1fe018d8c39e60e1c93fda9883758d22

(195)

on March 06, 2010
at 09:30 PM

The link to the Quote from "Wholehealthsource.blogspot.com"

Strategies: Gastrointestinal Health

Since the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is so intimately involved in body fat metabolism and overall health (see the former post), the next strategy is to improve GI health. There are a number of ways to do this, but they all center around four things:

  1. Don't eat food that encourages the growth of harmful bacteria
  2. Eat food that encourages the growth of good bacteria
  3. Don't eat food that impairs gut barrier function
  4. Eat food that promotes gut barrier health

The first one is pretty easy: avoid refined sugar, refined carbohydrate in general, and lactose if you're lactose intolerant. For the second and fourth points, make sure to eat fermentable fiber. In one trial, oligofructose supplements led to sustained fat loss, without any other changes in diet (5). This is consistent with experiments in rodents showing improvements in gut bacteria profile, gut barrier health, glucose tolerance and body fat mass with oligofructose supplementation (6, 7, 8).

Oligofructose is similar to inulin, a fiber that occurs naturally in a wide variety of plants. Good sources are jerusalem artichokes, jicama, artichokes, onions, leeks, burdock and chicory root. Certain non-industrial cultures had a high intake of inulin. There are some caveats to inulin, however: inulin and oligofructose can cause gas, and can also exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disorder (9). So don't eat a big plate of jerusalem artichokes before that important date.

The colon is packed with symbiotic bacteria, and is the site of most intestinal fermentation. The small intestine contains fewer bacteria, but gut barrier function there is critical as well. The small intestine is where the GI doctor will take a biopsy to look for celiac disease. Celiac disease is a degeneration of the small intestinal lining due to an autoimmune reaction caused by gluten (in wheat, barley and rye). This brings us to one of the most important elements of maintaining gut barrier health: avoiding food sensitivities. Gluten and casein (in dairy protein) are the two most common offenders. Gluten sensitivity is widespread and typically undiagnosed (10).

Eating raw fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and half-sour pickles also helps maintain the integrity of the upper GI tract. I doubt these have any effect on the colon, given the huge number of bacteria already present. Other important factors in gut barrier health are keeping the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in balance, eating nutrient-dense food, and avoiding the questionable chemical additives in processed food. If triglycerides are important for leptin sensitivity, then avoiding sugar and ensuring a regular source of omega-3 should aid weight loss as well.

Speaking from personal expierence taking care of your gut is important and even if our ancestors didn't use fermented food as much, I think their gut also had to deal with less damaging foods than we do. Kurt is right when he says metabolism first, history second.

Florian

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 07, 2010
at 03:31 PM

Peter is complaining about prebiotics, not probiotics. Some probiotics contain prebiotics, like inulin, which are supposedly food for good bacteria, but I would avoid them.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 07, 2010
at 01:34 PM

Does any-one know of any hard examples where foods that fulfil 2 (encourage good bacteria) don't also fulfil 1 (encourage negative bacteria)? It seems that a lot of the prebiotics that are encouraged for healthy bacteria are equally food for unhealthy bacteria- Peter (http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/2007/11/selling-fiber-and-bacteria.html) seems sceptical and none too keen on inulin either (http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search/label/Fiber%20inulin%20and%20cancer). That said it does seem that there's something especially bad about sugar, making pathogenic bacteria active.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on March 11, 2010
at 09:48 AM

Yes, I said prEbiotics... ;)

3
199e1758b73a72416fba6c10a55f93f3

(203)

on March 07, 2010
at 10:20 PM

The problem with probiotics is that you ingest them orally. This means they have to pass through the stomach, the acidity of which probably kills the bacteria before they get to your gut where they can conceivably do some good.

Getting good flora in your gut is more complicated than simply eating or drinking something with bacteria in it.

4c8a9bec5a27b66b28d3c5cddeb70e93

on March 07, 2010
at 10:41 PM

most come in capsules that are designed to survive the journey from through the stomach to your intestines

Db4dfe336bd8e47b627818c4e6655117

(10)

on January 13, 2012
at 06:50 PM

You might want to consider "real food" sources of probiotics, such as kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and so on, over pills. Yogurt feeds and supports the positive wee beasties you already have. Kefir, which has 5-6 times the live cultures of yogurt, and more diversity, actually get new, beneficial bacteria to take up residence. Supercharge your gut with real, live food.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:56 PM

Bacteria that is in yogurt or fermented vegetables is acid-resistant, otherwise it wouldn't have been able to live to ferment that stuff in the first place. So it goes fine down your stomach. And while the capsules of probiotics protect from stomach acid, numerous studies show a relatively low viability of bacteria when encapsulated. I would go for the real thing first, probiotic pills as a last resort because it will have less bang for your buck.

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on August 04, 2012
at 04:21 AM

@Cave Man Mind they resist acidity up to a certain point. They are NOT capable of living in the (hopefully) strong acidic conditions of the stomach. This is why number of bacteria in the stomach is generally under 1000, which is a minuscule number when you consider that your intestines may hold TRILLIONS of bacteria.

3
6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on March 06, 2010
at 06:16 PM

Microbial communities are incredibly competitive, especially those in high energy (food) environments like an animal gut. With generation lives of twenty minutes, tiny metabolic adaptations in bacteria can quickly lead to dominance within a day. The species composition of microbial communities can radically alter to optimally consume nutrients whenever the environment changes. For example, starving gut flora of simple sugars will quickly swing the composition of the community towards bacteria with thin cell walls (gram-negative) that are competent in utilizing less favored food sources.

The only way to influence the composition of a microbial community is to change their environment. Adding viable cells (e.g. probiotics) of any particular species would not have any effect on the gut flora. If the environment were favorable to the species added, it would have already been dominant, otherwise, the comparatively small number of live cells surviving transport to the gut would be quickly out-competed by adapted cells.

6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on March 06, 2010
at 09:11 PM

From the perspective of bacteria, minutes are long spans of time; what might seem transient to us appears stable to them. I'm not saying that introduction of new organisms might not be significant, but that the establishment of flora that is optimally adapted to the environment is inevitable. There are thousands or millions of species of bacteria in residence in the gut ready to proliferate when conditions are favorable.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 06, 2010
at 08:21 PM

Acton, your argument is probably true for closed, steady state systems, but not necessarily for open, chaotic systems like the gut. The gut environment is constantly changing, and one of the changes is a constant stream of novel and non-novel organisms from upstream. Some bacteria can form spores, but it strains credulity to think that the gut retains samples of all organisms it's ever seen, or that new organisms can't be introduced from above. For example, it takes only ten Shigella dysenteriae organisms to cause an infection (I realize that Shigella is not flora, but you see my point).

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 06, 2010
at 09:36 PM

Yeah, probiotics still have a benefit, it just might go away if you stop taking them.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 06, 2010
at 08:45 PM

If you search pubmed, you will find this is true. There have been very few documented cases of probiotic bacteria actually taking up residence in the gut. That's why early childhood is so important.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 07, 2010
at 02:50 AM

Great points, Acton and Melissa. I guess I'm just used to seeing pediatric studies, the results of which are admittedly mixed regarding probiotics. Also, they use clinical endpoints and usually do not do stool flora cultures. Cheers,

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on September 15, 2010
at 03:25 AM

I don't think we can state these kinds of things with such certainty. One variable would be time- do these studies look at people after a year of supplementation? The big variable here would be how much bacteria are taken- enough new bacteria could certainly overtake existing bacteria. Traditionally this would mean consuming large amounts of feces. Here you can see someone who wrote a book on healing the gut advocating "therapeutic doses" of probiotics that causes a "die off" of existing bacteria that must be consumed for 6 months. http://www.gapsdiet.com/Bio-Kult_Probiotic.html

1
0d821bf7d4028b84a6838062db0e9ce0

(754)

on March 11, 2010
at 07:26 AM

there's enteric coated probiotic pills that are supposed to not get their coating removed till they hit your intestines (the 'Pearl' marketed probiotics found in some stores are usually this kind, every other brand I've seen has just said enteric coated on the front instead.)

basically the coating is extra thick or acid resistant so the payload isn't destroyed by your stomach acid.

Getting this kind can help keep you from wasting money on non effective products, that said some of the fermented whole foods (Kefir etc) are tasty too.

1
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 06, 2010
at 05:48 PM

Hi Louisa. As Melissa said, our ancestors ate dirt. If you don't want to eat dirt, I think probiotics are a good idea. Here's a previous thread on probiotics with several suggestions: http://paleohacks.com/questions/301/probiotic-supplements

0
7e8a9b9eefdb2f94f4094519a021c563

on November 17, 2013
at 06:19 PM

@JHON your post is insulting to a number of people that have contributed thoughtful and reflective posts. Your spelling a grammar are so bad that it is not easy to follow your argument. From what I can make out it is confused and ill thought through. If you want to be taken seriously please take a little time before you post to check your English. No one minds the odd few typos, but when your post is only semi-literate it is perhaps better if you got help to edit it before hitting the "go-button".

,

@JHON - your first sentence is insulting to people who have posted a series of sensible and reflective answers. It is difficult to follow your argument because your spelling and grammar are so bad. What I can make out does not sound well thought through. I think you should think first and post second if you want to be taken seriously. It would also be helpful to all concerned if you checked out your English before you hit the "go" button.

0
D15d6820ef1545edac65e975cc2d8949

on March 07, 2010
at 11:15 AM

Sauerkraut and other cultured veggies!

-1
F2d794df633257ef65f9f97533b8087f

(14)

on March 24, 2012
at 07:31 PM

every one of you have no idea what you are talking about. no one yet knows where probiotics come from. or how they get into a new borns gut. the stumic acid kills all the probiotics you eat wicth is a god thing because the is one way the body protect it self from other pathigens. eating food that helps support probiotics will not kill off the bad crap in your gut. unless you go on a extream diet like keto and you have a yeast over growth.

if you do have a imbalance in you gut the best way would be to buy probiotics that form groups in your gut and not just pass through. and use them in a enema

E242ecf1fecbac866894059f5304b4c6

(318)

on March 24, 2012
at 11:36 PM

-1 for your know-it-all attitude and I wish I could subtract another for "stumic"

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 24, 2012
at 10:58 PM

If you are eating bacteria from yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables etc. they are acid resistant. That is why they could live in vinegar-like environments just fine. So that is untrue. How could anyone get food poisoning if all bacteria were killed in the stomach? Probably should have googled "bacteria + stomach acid" before posting here...

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on March 25, 2012
at 08:11 AM

Josh - your comment made me laugh out loud - love it!

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