gut bacteria

Probiotics. Are they all the same?

We all know that probiotics are great for digestive health, but how do you know which one your gut needs? The bottle lists the various species of bacteria (or yeasts) contained within and offers a vague description of what they do, which really doesn’t give away a lot unless you know what to look for! This article is all about what to look for in a probiotic and in addition, I will dispel some common myths about how they work.

Let’s start basic. What is a probiotic?

The World Health Organisation officially defines a probiotic as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (1). Probiotics can be bacteria, such as the commonly seen Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus species, or yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii. You will find probiotics in health food stores, chemists and health clinics, sold as capsules or powders, either alive or freeze dried (alive, but sleeping). Proper storage of probiotics is essential in ensuring they are still alive and healthy by the time they reach your gut, so always follow the storage instructions on the bottle and be mindful when transporting your probiotics.

How do probiotics work?

Myth number 1 – probiotics permanently make our gut their new home. It is a common misconception that we take probiotics to replace healthy bacteria that have been lost, for example, following antibiotic treatment or during times of stress. Probiotics work their magic while they are in transit through our gut and are eventually flushed with the stool (2). They may stay in there a bit longer than our food, but it isn’t forever.

Myth number 2 – all types of probiotics fight off bad bugs. Many (not all) probiotics do have the ability to compete with bad bugs and stop them from taking over, however the beneficial action of probiotics goes far beyond (3). Additional examples of how they work includes:

  • Reducing inflammation in the gut
  • Speeding up or slowing down the time it takes for food to travel along the digestive tract
  • Reducing how sensitive our gut is to internal gas
  • Repair and strengthen the gut lining
  • Interacting with immune cells (think allergies as well as infections)
  • Influence intestinal secretions
Naturopath in Melbourne

Why are probiotics named the way they are?

As probiotics are living organisms, they are given latin names just like all plants and animals. In order to differentiate probiotics, you need to understand the terminology around their naming. I will use an example of the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.

  • The first word is the genus – Lactobacillus
  • The second word is the species – rhamnosus
  • At the end of the latin name is the strain – GG

The strain may be a combination of letters, numbers or both.

How important is the strain?

The strain is very important when it comes to treating a particular complaint or condition. You could compare strains of probiotic to breeds of dog – all dogs are the same species, but they come in a range of shapes, colours and designs. Likewise in probiotic species, different strains can have a different effect in our guts (1). For example, some strains of Escherichia coli cause intestinal or urinary tract infections, whereas the strain Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 is protective against infections (4).

The strain is commonly omitted from probiotic labels and left out of the discussion when talking probiotics. A good quality probiotic will always include the strain, just like a good clinical trial (a human study) will always state which strain has been tested. Unfortunately, many strains that have been studied are not yet available in Australia.

Which probiotic should I take?

If you wish to treat a specific health condition with probiotics, it is best to do your research and find some positive human studies, then use the same strain. It may be more expensive, but at least you can be sure your money is going into something that will work. There are many articles out there on probiotics, particularly in treating digestive, skin and immune issues such as IBS, traveller’s diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions, asthma and eczema(5).

To give you a few examples, Lactobacillus plantarum CJLP133 can reduce the severity of eczema (6). Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium breve Bb99 can increase the eradication rate of Helicobacter pylori, an infection that causes stomach ulcers (7). At Narayani Wellness, we use Bifidobacteria lactis HN019 to treat SIBO, just one of the probiotics that we keep in our supplement toolbox.

If you are healthy and just looking for a probiotic to support general health, my recommendation is to get stuck into some fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha. Strictly speaking, fermented foods are not considered a probiotic as the exact microorganisms are typically not known, nor can they be measured. However fermented foods that have been stored correctly are considered safe and beneficial to consume as they increase overall diversity in the gut when consumed regularly, which has been linked to a lower incidence of disease (5). Fermented foods also contain compounds that help to break down your food and keep your digestion working optimally.

If you are still unsure, take the hard work out of your shopping and make an appointment with us today to help find the right probiotic for you.

By Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Fermented Curried Cauliflower

Who would have thought food and drinks affected by bacteria and yeasts would be so sought after? Yes, we are talking about fermented products. No doubt you have heard about them on social media, at your local health food store, or from a health conscious friend.

Did you know, fermentation is traditionally a food preservation technique that has been traced back thousands of years. Fermentation has also helped us create new foods such as turning milk, wheat and grapes into delicious cheese, bread and wine(1). Yum!

It was only in early 20th century that scientific researchers proposed that fermented products might have health benefits (2). Fast-forward to today and we have stacks of science supporting the presence of good bacteria in these foods and how they can provide us with wonderful health benefits (1).

One of our favourite ways to reap the health benefits of fermentation is through eating fermented veggies. You may be familiar with fermented cabbage in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi, but did you know you can ferment a tonne of other vegetables including cucumber, carrot, beetroot and broccoli? Given that cauliflower is in season I thought this would be the perfect time to create a fermented cauliflower recipe.

Curried Cauliflower recipie

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp coriander ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 head (600-700g) cauliflower
  • 2 grated medium sized carrots, grated
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 -1 ½ tsp fine Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
  • Glass jar

Method

1. Rinse the cauliflower in cold water and cut into florets and slice as thinly as you can. Place in a bowl along with carrot, spring onion, spices and salt and mix with your hands. Ensure everything is well mixed and then let this rest for 30 mins.

2. Get your hands dirty again and massage the mixture again for a few minutes.

3. Press the mixture tightly into the jar, adding bit by bit, pressing down to realise the veggie juice (brine) as you go. Don’t worry if the mixture feels dry, as fermentation continues the vegetables will continue weeping.

4. After the mixture is in the jar, make sure it is pressed down and the brine is covering the cauliflower mixture.

5. After 8 hours, open the jar and give the mixture one more press down, to ensure the brine covers the vegetables.

6. Rest the jar on a plate (in case the brine seeps out) and place it in a warm place, such as above the fridge, and cover it with a tea towel. Depending on time of year you can start to taste the ferment from day 4 or day 7. When it’s ready you will be able to sense a pleasant sour and pickled taste.

7. Give the mixture another press to submerge in brine, screw on the lid and store in the fridge.

8. You will have this delicious ferment if kept refrigerated for 9-10 months. 

Things to look out for when fermenting

  • Brine. Always have your veggies covered, if your veggies are above the liquid push them back under. If you realise this later in the fermentation process, remove the veggies that have been on top of the brine level as they are no good. 
  • Note: if you are new to eating fermented foods, start consuming small amounts and increase gradually. Also if you have an issue with histamines, fermented foods may not be a great choice.

Created by Rachel Larsson

 

Why your IBS could actually be Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

Picture this.

For years you have been suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  You may have experienced abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating, frustrating bowel motions and reactions to ‘healthy’ food.  You have tried diets, supplements and medications yet you are still suffering. How frustrating!!

But perhaps there is something else going on.

In our experience, many of our patients don't just have IBS but actually have Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which can be tested for and treated. Symptoms of SIBO are similar to symptoms of IBS, which is why it may have been overlooked (1).

SIBO explained

SIBO occurs when there is an increased number of bacteria in your small intestine (1). Having an increased bacterial load can cause havoc to your gut wall and can lead to trouble with digestion, poor nutrient absorption, immune dysfunction and reactions to food (2).  SIBO left untreated has also been linked to nutrient deficiencies, depression, anxiety (3), fibromyalgia (4), hypothyroidism (5) and rosacea (6).

How did I get this?

The risk factors for developing SIBO are far and wide and are commonplace in today’s society. They include low stomach acid, which can naturally happens as we get older or through nutrient deficiencies that may occur if you have an underlying gut issue, chronic illness or poor diet. You also increase your risk of developing SIBO if you have used antibiotics or the oral contraceptive pill, if you drink alcohol or experience stress (1)

Can you relate to one or two of these?

Digestive Health Diet

How can I find out if I have SIBO?

In clinic, I regularly hear patients say things like ‘after a meal I look and feel four months pregnant’ or ‘I react to so many foods’. These statements make me consider SIBO as part of the their problem. The SIBO test is wonderful as it identifies its presence and helps us choose the most appropriate treatment for you. It is a test that can be performed at home or in a laboratory. After drinking a sugar, the breath test measures hydrogen gas and methane gas when you exhale, which indicates if SIBO is present, the type you have (methane dominant or hydrogen dominant) and how severe SIBO is for you.

To get SIBO under control we use a gentle combination of herbal, nutritional and dietary interventions. We follow a principle of 'do no harm' and we make sure we are supporting you and any the good bugs that are already in your gut. In addition we address risk factors that caused your SIBO to give you the best chance of it never returning and to live a life free of digestive distress. 

If this sounds like something you or someone you know has experienced, it's time to take the next step forward to get you back to good health.

It’s time to beat the bloating and get our bugs back in balance!

Rachel

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)