The Benefits from Probiotics: Healthy Aging, Better Living – Part 2
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Benefits from probiotics
Many of the chronic conditions that naturally come with age are the same conditions that result from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). The benefits from probiotics can help.
Stress, the primary cause of AFS, is an everyday event for all of us. When stress occurs, no matter the source, a pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated. The end organ in this pathway is the adrenal glands. Their purpose is to secrete several hormones. Cortisol is the one that fights the effects of stress. As stress continues, more and more cortisol is secreted to fight it.
At some point, with continuing stress, the adrenal glands reach the point of fatigue, and sufficient cortisol can’t be secreted to counteract the effects of stress. When this happens, a number of symptoms become more evident. Some experience the tendency to gain weight around the middle of the body. With a lowered immune effectiveness, there is more risk of getting the flu and other illnesses. These infections may last longer than usual. Many wake up more tired than when they went to sleep. There is an increase in inflammation throughout the body due to the imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiota and leaky gut.
And one of the more serious characteristics of stress and its effects is that they tend to accumulate over time. As we age, we’re exposed more and more to stress, leading its effects to be more prevalent in older people.
The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Model
Conventionally-trained physicians typically handle the symptoms of AFS in a manner that is less than comprehensive. They approach issues one organ or symptom at a time without considering how one symptom or organ can affect others in the body.
A more comprehensive approach is the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response model, in which systems of the body act in interrelationship with one another. What occurs in the metabolic system, for example, affects the inflammatory system and sets up symptoms there. These symptoms then affect the hormonal response system and start symptoms there.
This interrelationship continues as long as stress continues. Alleviating the effects of stress must take into consideration how these systems interact.
As we age, we become more susceptible to symptoms in one or more of these body systems. The dysregulation that occurs with stress in the metabolic system can allow leakage of unhealthy bacteria into the rest of the body. This results in an increase in inflammation throughout the body, which is the foundation of all chronic disease conditions. Continuing stress also causes hormones to be secreted that can eventually result in an imbalance, leading to more chronic illnesses.
With all of these problems, the flood of unhealthy bacteria, and the excess of hormones, the detox system becomes overloaded, leading to increased toxins in the body. Somewhere in the middle of this storm, the neuroaffective response is stimulated, leading to mental health issues.
Probiotic Benefits in Alleviating Chronic Diseases
We all grow older; that can’t be helped. And many who age develop a variety of chronic diseases. One of the benefits of probiotics is their ability to make changes in the gut microbiota that help to alleviate these chronic conditions. The benefits from probiotics can be added to your diet through foods and supplements.
Probiotic Foods and Supplements
When adding the benefits from probiotics to your diet through foods, be sure to consider the CFUs, the colony forming units, in the foods. This is a measure of the density of bacteria available for your nutritional needs. In the past, we were able to get all the beneficial bacteria we needed from foods grown in nutrient-rich soil. Now, with the depletion of nutrients from the soil and the addition of antibiotics to so many products, from meat to vegetables, we must supplement our diets to improve gut health.
In addition to consuming more beneficial probiotic foods, it is also important to avoid foods that increase the bad bacteria in your gut or inadvertently kill good bacteria. Some foods to avoid are sugars, processed foods, GMO food, grains, chlorinated tap water, and foods that you know contain antibiotics.
Sour Foods and Fermented, Cultured Dairy
One of the first things to add to your diet is more sour foods. Apple cider vinegar and fermented vegetables can bring many of the benefits from probiotics. These foods also contain healthy acids that encourage a pH in your body that supports the growth of probiotics.
Other foods rich in probiotics also help to gain or regain health. Good quality fermented dairy like goat milk yogurt and kefir are probiotic-rich and help improve gut health. At least one serving of these foods helps you access the benefits from probiotics.
Kefir is a fermented milk product from Russia and Turkey originally. It’s usable by people who are lactose intolerant because the yeasts in kefir breakdown the lactose in milk.
Goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and A2 aged cheeses are full of probiotics such as thermophilus, bifidus, bulgaricus, and acidophilus. Raw and not pasteurized ingredients provide the best benefits from probiotics.
Yogurt is probably the most popular source of benefits from probiotics. It is excellent if it’s made from milk from grass-fed animals. Organic milk is best.
Fermented and Fermentable Foods
Fermented foods are made with cultures of good bacteria and can add healthy bacteria to your gut.
Sauerkraut is rich in Lactobacillus. It also contains organic acids that support good bacteria growth. It’s high in vitamin C and in digestive enzymes.
Kimchi is the Korean cousin to sauerkraut. It’s made with Chinese cabbage and a number of other foods and spices, then aged for several days.
Natto is a Japanese dish of fermented soybeans high in Bacillus subtilis. This bacteria boosts the immune system, supports cardiovascular health, and helps digest vitamin K2.
Kvass is a common beverage in Eastern Europe made from fermented barley or rye and sometimes vegetables like carrots. It contains Lactobacilli probiotics.
Miso is a major component of Japanese medicine. It is a paste made from fermented soybeans, rice, or barley. Traditionally it is used to stimulate digestion and increase energy.
Kombucha is black tea fermented using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It is sometimes used to support digestion, increase energy, and aid liver detox.
Additionally, probiotics are living organisms and thus need food to survive. This is why adding high-quality, fermentable fiber to your diet is another good way to feed your probiotics.
Chia seeds and flax seeds are good sources of fermentable fiber. Organic fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes are also good sources.
It’s also possible to take supplements with probiotics to reap the benefits from probiotics. However, some cautions are in order.
If you plan to take probiotic supplements, do not be mislead into thinking the more the better in terms of probiotic count. In AFS in particular, excessive probiotics can be problematic. Also, the benefits from probiotics are only good when they can be reconstituted. Having a high count of unavailable probiotics does not serve the body well. Instead, it can add to the overall toxic reactive metabolite load unnecessarily.
Beneficial Strains of Probiotics
There are many different strains to achieve the benefits from probiotics:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum – supports the immune system and inhibits harmful bacteria
- Bifidobacterium longum – reduces inflammation, removes lead, and heavy metals
- Bifidobacterium breve – helps remove bad bacteria
- Bifidobacterium infantis – aids in relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Lactobacillus casei – supports the immune system, helps fight infection
- Lactobacillus acidophilus – aids in lactose intolerance, lowers cholesterol levels
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus – neutralizes toxins, fights harmful bacteria
- Lactobacillus brevis – boosts cellular immunity, enhances natural killer T cells
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus – supports balanced bacteria, reduces anxiety
- Bacillus subtilis – builds immune response, inhibits growth of bad bacteria
- Bacillus coagulans – improves nutrient absorption, reduces inflammation
- Saccharomyces boulardii – improves intestinal cell growth, has antitoxin and antimicrobial qualities
While there are many excellent strains of probiotics, this last deserves special mention.
This strain of probiotic comes from the skin of plants such as lychee and mangosteen fruit. It’s similar in form to baker’s yeast, but it differs in some metabolic properties. It has been used in alternative medicine applications for a number of years.
One of the most potent benefits of this probiotic is that it isn’t affected by antibiotics since it is a yeast. This quality makes it effective in stopping infections such as candida when antibiotics have destroyed other beneficial bacteria, but have left some pathogens in your gut system.
It has been used to remediate many gastrointestinal conditions including Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis. It has also been used to fight yeast infections. Research published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2010 reported Saccharomyces boulardii to possibly be effective in dealing with the above health conditions. The report said more research is needed before the probiotic can be said to be fully effective in these efforts.
It has also been shown to potentially be effective in handling C. difficile infections, to help boost production of Immunoglobulin-A, and to have anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent damage to cells. In addition, it appears to aid in increasing levels of enzymes that help with digestion.
Some possible cautions need to be kept in mind. Not enough research has been conducted with this probiotic to be certain of its long-term effects. Regular use by mouth by adults appears to have relatively few side effects. Gas, constipation, and bloating appear to be the most common side effects. Fungemia, a condition of fungi in the blood, is a possible concern with the use of Saccharomyces boulardii. Older adults, infants, and those with suppressed immune systems need to avoid its use or at least consult with their healthcare providers. Patients with colitis, cancer, and central venous catheters should avoid this probiotic.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Overall, the benefits from probiotics have few side effects. There may be some stomach upset initially, but it’s minor and temporary. It is possible for probiotics to lead to infections. If these occur, they will typically be in infants, the elderly, and those who have compromised immune systems.
It’s possible for the body to mistake probiotics for infectious agents invading the body. In this case, the immune system will respond just as if there really is an infectious agent there. An elevated white blood cell count will be seen, along with fatigue and possibly fever.
Unusual changes in metabolism can also occur. These may result in more or less frequent bowel movements. Weight gain, weight loss, or a decrease in absorption of nutrients may also occur.
One factor to consider is that the Food and Drug Administration does not oversee probiotics. To obtain benefits from probiotics, it’s important to get them from a good source. Because they’re considered foods and not medications, however, claims made by manufacturers may not always be accurate. You must be diligent in checking these claims.
Keep in mind also that probiotics may not work the same way for you as they work for someone else. Some trial and error may be in order to get the most benefit from probiotics for your body.
Also, don’t stop taking a medication from your doctor because of switching to probiotics. Consult with your healthcare professional first.
Everyone ages; that is a given. How well you age is up to you in large part. You can fall into the category of older adults that experience complications from chronic illnesses, or you can make healthy choices now to alleviate some of them. While you may not be able to stave off all chronic illnesses as you age, you can keep some of them away and make others less serious. To do this, take advantage of the health benefits of probiotics by including them in your diet today.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What is the main benefit of probiotics in aging?
One of the more difficult aspects of aging is the emergence of chronic health problems. On average, older Americans have at least two chronic illnesses for the rest of their lives. The main benefit of probiotics is to ease, and sometimes eliminate, these chronic illnesses, improving quality of life.