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Do We Know for Sure that All Probiotics are Good for Us?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created September 30, 2010 at 8:01 PM

I found this interesting link: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?cat=47 Scroll a little more than half way down to July 19, 2010 Bowel Disease Part II, where it says that Bifidobacterium bifidum gut bacteria is able to digest human mucosa. The article makes it out as if this a good thing but is it? The mucosal lining of the gut is an important immune defense system. Do we want something feeding on that?

In the next paragraph, the article also says that mother's milk contains special sugars called human milk oligosaccharides to help feed that same bacteria. Since these sugars are not well digested by the infant if the bacteria is not there, then one might assume that part of the reason the sugars are present in human mother's milk is to feed these bacteria. But why? Are the byproducts of the fermentation of the sugar by the bacteria good for the baby? I would guess, in times of fasting, if this bacteria is in fact good for you, at least when you are drinking milk, then you would want some of this bacteria still present to repopulate when the milk came back. If it was feeding on the mucosa, then some would still always be present as it would always have a food source in the gut.

But what happens when you not only have bifidobacterium feeding on your mucosa but also are stripping it via consumption of wheat and other damaging types of food? I am thinking this might be an example of islands of safety when eating. Many people may be able to drink milk more safely if their mucosa are otherwise not being attacked by other food sources and if their consumption of milk is relatively regular, such that bacteria would survive mostly on your milk intake and less so on the mucosa. But damage your gut in other ways and combine with erratic consumption of milk, and that could be recipe for trouble.

Perhaps in some situatoins where milk is a valuable source of calories and other intestinal damaging foods are not eat, milk may well do more good than harm. But in other situations, perhaps the reverse. Thus milk could be both good and bad depending on the situation and of course, the genetics.

But this brings up another question, why consider bifidobacterium bifidum a good probiotic if you are not drinking milk and it may be feeding on your intestinal mucosa? Sounds like a bad thing to me.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on October 02, 2010
at 07:36 PM

Great answer!!!

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 01, 2010
at 12:21 AM

From what I've read, they are basically involved in milk digestion, which is impt for babies but not for adults not consuming lactose. Looks like they are also NOT among the top 25 most populous bacteria in the gut so they may not be a huge player when it comes to pushing out other bacteria.

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3 Answers

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5
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19245)

on October 02, 2010
at 05:50 PM

Lots of questions :)

...where it says that Bifidobacterium bifidum gut bacteria is able to digest human mucosa. The article makes it out as if this a good thing but is it? The mucosal lining of the gut is an important immune defense system. Do we want something feeding on that?

Yes. The commensal bacteria are just as important as the mucus. The mucus provides polysaccharides for bacteria including Bifidobacteria to breakdown as food. As the bacterial enzymes break down the mucus, they provide energy for many other types of bacteria forming a complex eco system. This is the reason the bacteria in your intestines do not all die if you fast or eat zero-carb.

In the next paragraph, the article also says that mother's milk contains special sugars called human milk oligosaccharides to help feed that same bacteria. Since these sugars are not well digested by the infant if the bacteria is not there, then one might assume that part of the reason the sugars are present in human mother's milk is to feed these bacteria. But why?

The intestines, particularly the colon, are idea places for bacteria to grow. Many disease-causing microorganisms are waiting to colonise a newborn baby. Encouraging a friendly type of bacteria too take up residence prevents infection.

Are the byproducts of the fermentation of the sugar by the bacteria good for the baby?

Yes. These lower the pH of the colon inhibiting pathogens. These probably provide energy for the cells lining the colon but I???m not certain about infants.

I would guess, in times of fasting, if this bacteria is in fact good for you, at least when you are drinking milk, then you would want some of this bacteria still present to repopulate when the milk came back. If it was feeding on the mucosa, then some would still always be present as it would always have a food source in the gut.

The oligosaccharides sugars in human breast milk that feed the infant gut bacteria are not found in cows milk.

But what happens when you not only have bifidobacterium feeding on your mucosa but also are stripping it via consumption of wheat and other damaging types of food? I am thinking this might be an example of islands of safety when eating. Many people may be able to drink milk more safely if their mucosa are otherwise not being attacked by other food sources and if their consumption of milk is relatively regular, such that bacteria would survive mostly on your milk intake and less so on the mucosa. But damage your gut in other ways and combine with erratic consumption of milk, and that could be recipe for trouble.

In adults, the bifidobacterium and most other types live in your colon and don???t play a role in digesting milk, unless you are lactose intolerant and lots of lactose ends up in the colon. It is this colonic fermentation of lactose by bacteria that causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance. The damage due to wheat is mostly in the small intestine where most nutrients are absorbed.

But this brings up another question, why consider bifidobacterium bifidum a good probiotic if you are not drinking milk and it may be feeding on your intestinal mucosa? Sounds like a bad thing to me.

In adults biffobacterium bifidum do not feed on milk, they can also eat a variety of plant fibres. They are not a bad probiotic, whether any of them survive to reach your colon from a supplement in most cases is debatable. Those that do rarely survive more than a day or two, this is why probiotics have to be taken every day.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on October 02, 2010
at 07:36 PM

Great answer!!!

5
9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

on October 02, 2010
at 08:37 PM

The field of gut flora is a very complex one and we probably don't understand the better part of it yet.

For example, undesirable bacterias can form biofilms that are very strong and that communicates together. Like you probably read on the perfect health diet, those biofilms feed on minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium. I find iron to be the worst offender here.

The problem is, commensal bacteria also needs iron to thrive. I know first hand because I'm dealing with HUGE gut flora problems and it has taken over my life for the last few years and I've tested almost everything. In my case, high iron, especially coupled with vitamin C (which helps iron absorption) magnifies the problem almost immediately. I tried to lower my iron by eating only white fish and taking apolactoferrin and other herbs that bind to iron, but it turns out that was not a good idea because the poor commensal bacteria got even weaker then it was.

As for the part of your question about the bacteria feeding on milk's sugars or gut mucosa, keep in mind that gut flora is able to feed on pretty much anything but fat. Prebiotics are especially a problem for people who are massively challenged and the undesirable bacteria will feed on it big time. It's sad that it's now included in almost every probiotic formulation. I wouldn't worry about the bacteria feeding on mucus, because all that action happens anyway. The gut is probably making fresh new mucosa all the time anyway.

Depending on your situation, some probiotics can be bad for you. It's all a question of having the right balance. For example, acidophilus or bifidum overgrowth can be a problem. In my case, it's bifidum overgrowth and lack of acidophilus that I'm dealing with. I wish I had access to a good doctor that would have found that before. I was taking regular probiotics for the last year without success and it's only when I started taking only acidophilus that I finally started to make progress. You see, bifidobacterium usually resides in the colon, but can overgrow in the small intestine when bacterias like acidophilus are not populating it correctly and it gets a chance to take place. It's called small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

If you eat ZC, bacteria will feed on proteins and even if you fast for a considerable amount of time bacteria could feed on your own blood sugar, which is an infinite source of food for them. Of course fasting will reduce bacteria population, but that is good and bad bacteria. If your problem is too few of a specific type of bacteria, fasting will cause problems because the bad bacteria will get a chance to overtake again when you finish your fast.

Bacterial overgrowth can also spread in the stomach and this is often the case of people with GERD or gastritis.

Here is an interesting lecture about gut flora: http://epistemocrat.blogspot.com/2010/08/gut-inner-tube-of-life-by-dr-lepine.html

I think we too often see gut flora in a linear and simplistic fashion. For example, people think that they have candida problems, which can happen (candida overgrowth), and then take multiple antifungals in the hope of killing the candida. You don't "kill" the candida and the way to operate is to repair to overgrowth and introducing good bacteria that will recreate an acidic environment favorable for commensal bacteria to thrive and keep less desirable bacterias in check. Taking antifungals WILL kill good commensal bacteria as well, and if your problem is really candida overgrowth, candida will get a chance to overgrow even more if you take antifungals without massive amounts of probiotics.

Anyway, some of this is not geared directly at your question, but I felt like it might be of interest to you. There is one test you can take, the Metametrix GI effects test, that should be able to give you an idea of the commensal and pathogenic population in your gut so you can then make wise decisions. Simply blaming everything gut related to candida is misleading at best, because it can originate from a host of other problems.

0
52cae90a114ca8f0404948e2b7ccb7ef

(1595)

on September 30, 2010
at 10:51 PM

The cells in your intestinal mucosa slough off rapidly. They only live on the order of 3-4 days. It's a tough environment and it seems like this is evolution's way of keeping the gut healthy. Perhaps the bacteria are feeding off your dead cells and not the living ones. I don't know enough about those Bifidobacterium bifidum, but I'm inclined to be nice to them.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 01, 2010
at 12:21 AM

From what I've read, they are basically involved in milk digestion, which is impt for babies but not for adults not consuming lactose. Looks like they are also NOT among the top 25 most populous bacteria in the gut so they may not be a huge player when it comes to pushing out other bacteria.

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