The current study breaks new ground because it shows that lactobacillus and bifidobacterium supplements caused sustained immunological protection-both stimulated immune cells that were outside the G.I. tract, i.e. white cells in the blood.
Bacteria-containing supplements, called probiotics, are only one of many natural substances being studied for their ability to improve our overall resistance to infection. Vitamins C and A, selenium, zinc, echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia orpurpurea), aloe(Aloe vera), garlic(Allium sativum), silymarin(from milk thistle, Silybum marianum) and cow’s milk whey also improve the body’s natural resistance to infection. Probiotics are especially intriguing because of growing evidence that connects bacterial action within the G.I. tract to a number of body processes.
It is estimated there are more bacteria in the gut than cells in the body or stars in the sky. In addition to the immune system effects, gut bacteria manufacture vitamins, detoxify environmental chemicals and metabolize hormones and other substances. Unfriendly organisms in the G.I. tract, however, not only can cause infections, but can produce toxic products including a host of carcinogens.
Beta glucuronidase, for example, is an enzyme produced by certain unfriendly gut bacteria. High levels of beta glucuronidase disrupt the body’s ability to detoxify both natural hormones and environmental chemicals. People who have high levels of beta glucuronidase in their stool may be at increased risk for breast and colon cancer. Because beta glucuronidase in the stool is easily measured, it may help assess a person’s cancer risk.
Can we reduce our exposure to beta glucuronidase? Taking probiotic supplements increases the proportion of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in the G.I. tract, which thereby decreases the number of beta-glucuronidase-producing bacteria. A diet that reduces red meat and emphasizes plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and fermented milk products containing live organisms also promotes a healthy population of friendly bacteria.
Richard N. Podell, M.D. is clinical professor of family medicine at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., and director of the Podell Center for Medical Treatment, Prevention and Natural Healing in Springfield, N.J.
The Green Turtle Bay Vitamin Products listed below all come in a probiotic lactobacilli base consisting of 5 active lactobacilli: acidophilus, bulgaricus, rhamnosus, bifidobacterium longum, and bifido bifidum.: