Digestion is vital to life. It’s the process whereby an ingested substance is chemically and mechanically converted into substances that can be used in the body. Given the challenges of the 21st century, this vital human process does not always function optimally, and a healthy digestive system isn’t assured. This post examines the trio of prebiotics, probiotics and symbiotics, and how they can help restore and support digestive health.
Probiotics and digestion
The digestive tract maintains a balance between healthy and potentially harmful microorganisms. Healthy microorganisms or microflora are residents of the digestive tract that have a protective role in our bodies. In 1908, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elie Metchnikoff of the Pasteur Institute in Paris provided the first evidence that microorganisms may be responsible for the health-promoting effects of fermented milks.
After observing that Bulgarian peasants lived to ripe old ages, Metchnikoff became convinced that their health and longevity were linked to microbes in the soured milk they copiously drank. In his book The Prolongation of Life, he suggested that disease-causing (“bad”) bacteria could be eliminated by ingesting large amounts of Bulgarian sour milk, which contained a beneficial (“good”) bacterium later identified as Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
These organisms were part of a group called Lactobacilli, or bacteria that produce lactic acid. The study and therapeutic use of various beneficial bacteria for health purposes for humans and animals is termed probiotics, literally “for life”.
Inhibition of pathogens
Probiotics modulate the composition of the human gut microbiota. One of the major beneficial effects is the suppression of harmful microorganisms.1 That is why, when there is a significant depletion and a lack of replenishment of our healthy microorganisms and probiotic microflora, there is heightened risk for intestinal conditions like viral gastroenteritis.2
Also, research by Campieri and colleagues points out that when there is an adequate range and sufficient numbers of healthy probiotic organisms in the gut, the risk of inflammatory bowel disease is substantially reduced, and there is reversal in those individuals who have already expressed conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or regional enteritis.3
Lowering of lipid levels
A variety of studies have been published showing that healthy probiotics in adequate amounts bind and help increase the metabolism of certain lipid or lypophilic substances, reduce certain toxicants that are secreted through the bile into the gastrointestinal tract, and reduce the reuptake of cholesterol and fatty acid products. This can be associated with a 5-17% reduction in serum cholesterol after just one month of daily consumption of adequate probiotic organisms that is in the 10-20 billion organism/day range.4
Probiotics also produce many important enzymes and increase the availability of nutrients. For instance, the enzyme lactase, which is secreted by lactic acid bacteria, improves absorption of the milk sugar lactose. Also, these bacteria facilitate the action of intestinal lactase leading to decreased diarrhea and thereby better overall digestion.5
A prudent person would therefore benefit by taking 8-12 billion probiotic organisms from mixed cultures, a variety of Lactobacilli, Bifidobacterium, and Strep thermophilus organisms and if one is traveling, or under distress, recovering from a disease or replenishing their probiotics due to antibiotic consumption then the need would be closer to 20 billion, healthy probiotic organisms/day.
There are 10 active, viable, live probiotic strains in PERQUE Digesta Guard Forté 10— 7.5 billion organisms per single capsule. The probiotic organisms in the capsule are highly stable. They are maintained under freezer conditions after production and before delivery leading to a <5% loss of activity at freezer temperatures, which is -20° F or below. In the refrigerator there is about a 10% loss in six months of storage and at room temperature there is <5% loss over a month.
Role of Antibiotics
Humans and animals require good bacteria to break down nutrients for digestion. Living systems require bacteria to decompose waste. Unfortunately, antibiotic therapy kills all bacteria, both bad and good, thus debilitating digestion and slowing decomposition. In addition, by relying on antibiotics, organisms never develop their natural immune response mechanisms. They become even more vulnerable to disease. Further, continued use of antibiotics has, in some cases, led to stronger, more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Frequent antibiotic use can lead to an overgrowth of yeast (Candida albicans), which thrives in a gut low in friendly bacteria. Probiotics are recommended in cases of yeast infection.6
Researchers are now beginning to advocate antibiotic/probiotic combinations for such conditions as diarrhea, female urinary/genital tract infection and infective endocarditis.7
Fiber and digestion
Pathogens need to be prevented from growing in our intestines and the gut should be able to break food down into non-reactive non-foreign building blocks so that the body can easily assimilate, utilize and eliminate them. The body also needs to be able to eliminate. The speed at which the guts moves its contents, from consumption to elimination is called the transit time. To achieve an optimal transit time of 12-18 hours, the diet should be high in fiber: 80% soluble and 20% insoluble. Fiber provides healthier digestion and also improves blood cholesterol levels by binding to it.8
Adequate fiber lowers the glycemic index and can also help lower the Body Mass Index.9
Fiber additionally facilitates absorption of nutrients and detoxification of toxins such as heavy metals, improves mental clarity, and reduces brain fog. PERQUE Regularity Guard contains an ideal combination of fiber and prebiotics that improves digestion naturally and provides trophorestorative support to the gut.
How much fiber does one need?
The ideal goal is 40gm of total soluble and insoluble fiber throughout the day. So if one is on a high fiber diet, which is giving you about 30 grams/day, then one or two scoops of PERQUE Regularity Guard is indicated. If one is on a Standard American Diet, where the fiber content is very low, 3-5 scoops of PERQUE Regularity Guard are required.
Glutamine and digestion
Intestinal surfaces are susceptible to erosion from mechanical action, toxins and the products of abnormal bacteria. Digestion and normal metabolic function of the intestines are dependent upon adequate amounts of glutamine, which is the most abundant amino acid in the body. Leaky bowel syndrome and damaged mucosa are usually associated with glutamine deficiency. Through the action of glutamine on the kidneys, the body controls pH balance and eliminates acids.10
Research indicates that glutamine can effectively enhance bowel function in people with short-bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal conditions and also those requiring extensive intestinal operations, including transplantation.11
The effects of glutamine have also been shown to maintain the integrity of the gut barrier structure and decrease intestinal cell wall damage.12
L-glutamine and Pyridoxal Alpha Ketoglutarate (PAK) in PERQUE Endura/PAK Guard helps regenerate the intestinal surface cells and provides for optimum digestion.
- Fuller R, Gibson GR. Modification of the intestinal microflora using probiotics and prebiotics. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1997;222:28-31.
- Biller JA, Katz AJ, Flores AF, Buie TM, Gorbach SL. Treatment of recurrent Clostridium difficile colitis with Lactobacillus GG. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1995 Aug;21(2):224-6.
- Campieri M , Gionchetti P. Probiotics in inflammatory bowel disease: New insight to pathogenesis or a possible therapeutic alternative? Gastroenterology 1999;116:1246-1249.
- Jackson KG, Taylor GR, Clohessy AM, Williams CM. The effect of the daily intake of inulin on fasting lipid, insulin and glucose concentrations in middle-aged men and women. Br J Nutr. 1999 Jul;82(1):23-30.
- Heyman M. Effect of lactic acid bacteria on diarrheal diseases. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2 Suppl):137S-146S.
- Gionchetta P, Campieri M. Probiotic therapy. Res Clin Forums 2000;22:111-16.
- Charteris WP, et al. Antibiotic susceptibility of potentially probiotic Lactobacillus species. J Food Prot 1998;61:1636-43.
- Riccardi G, Rivellese AA. Effects of dietary fiber and carbohydrate on glucose and lipoprotein metabolism in diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 1991 Dec;14(12):1115-25
- Murakami K, Sasaki S, Okubo H, Takahashi Y, Hosoi Y, Itabashi M. Dietary fiber intake, dietary glycemic index and load, and body mass index: a cross-sectional study of 3931 Japanese women aged 18-20 years. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan 24; [Epub ahead of print]
- Judy Shabert, MD, RD and Nancy Ehrlich. The Ultimate Nutrient Glutamine, The Essential Nonessential Amino Acid.
- Byrne TA, Persinger RL, Young LS, Ziegler TR, Wilmore DW. A new treatment for patients with short-bowel syndrome. Growth hormone, glutamine, and a modified diet. Ann Surg. 1995 Sep;222(3):243-54; discussion 254-5.
- Wu XQ, Shu LH, Sun M, Wang H, Gao H. [Effect of glutamine on apoptosis of the small intestine in young rats with endotoxemia and its mechanism][Article in Chinese]Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 2006 Dec;8(6):496-8.
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