Probiotic Supplements and Fermented Foods
What are Probiotic Bacteria?
Probiotic bacteria are the living beneficial bacteria found in nature and in healthy human bodies. They have beneficial effects on us by protecting against disease (pathogenic micro-organisms), and helping us to digest our food, thus improving our digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The true meaning of probiotic is "for" (pro) and "life" (bio).
Organisms that are generally regarded as safe are the lactobacilli, sarchoromycis, streptococci, bifidbacteria, etc. They have been shown to survive passage through the GI tract, have anti-microbial activity, help the immune system, and help recolonize the GI tract. Multiple studies have been conducted on probiotic bacteria in dealing with the prevention or treatment of diarrhea, gastric or intestinal illnesses, prevention or cure of cancer or the formation of carcinogens, lowering of serum cholesterol, reduction in the severity of alcoholic liver disease, and the stimulation of the immune system.
How most probiotic supplements are produced by manufacturers
Most people do not know how probiotic supplements are made. There is lots of propaganda out there, lots of information telling you why a certain probiotic supplement is the best, or why one supplement is better than the competition’s. Most people do not know how these supplements are made or what the requirements are. So first let’s start with a brief overview.
You might be surprised to find out that if you were to open up a probiotic supplement and put it on an agar (or in other growing media) to grow, that it would be impossible to know exactly how many bacteria there were in the supplement, and it would be even harder to decipher how many different types of organisms it contained. The way probiotic manufacturers are able to make the claims they do [as to what organisms and how many cfu’s (colony forming units) they contain is because they know what goes into the making of each capsule.
The manufacturers have medium where they grow the individual organisms. Each culture medium contains completely pure cultures with no additional organisms except for the single organism that they want. Each of the cultures in the manufacturer’s specific recipe is weighed out, “food” is added for the culture to live on while they are in captivity (in the capsules), and flowing agents are added, then the cultures are packaged into capsules (or just into jars). The manufacturer knows how many organisms and which types of organisms are in the package because they created and packaged the cultures according to their own recipe. The guidelines state that the amount of organisms in the package are supposed to be within 10% of what it states on the label. It impossible for anyone to verify the amounts stated on the label by culturing the contents. So it is very hard to police probiotic supplements.
New "Super Strains” of Flora
There is a lot of new information on “new strains” of various bacteria, which are considered normal flora. They have found that when the exact same organism (same genus and species) is taken from the intestines of an infant or a healthy adult and compared to the “lab grown” or “cultured” organism there are huge differences. There has been a significant amount of research concerning this, and many companies are coming out with “super strains” of bacteria such as bifidobacterium infantis as a probiotic taken from the babies. These “super strains” are promoted as a cure for irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal disorders.
A lesson from Blueberries
When I look at nature it all makes sense. For example, there is a direct relationship in the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries and where they grow - the harsher the environment, the higher the antioxidants. So blueberries growing in Florida or Arkansas have much lower ORAC scores (a measure of the amount of antioxidants) than blueberries grown in Maine, Michigan or Minnesota. Research has found that blueberries grown in Alaska have the highest ORAC scores of any blueberries.
This has many other applications, but when specifically applied to gut flora, it has been shown through research that when bacteria are grown where they have no competition and can live in “easy street”, they do not grow to become strong and mighty. However, the same exact bacteria, when grown in the intestinal tract, do battle with other bacteria, compete, and have to “work” to survive. They grow to become much hardier and much stronger. This type of bacteria does the best job of transforming an imbalanced digestive tract.
Organisms in Fermented Food
This is a major reason why I prefer probiotic/fermented foods to probiotic supplements. In fermented foods there is not just a single strain of one type of organism, but rather a community of multiple organisms. As the food ferments, it creates short-chain fatty acids, enzymes, and acids to block out unhealthy pathogens and to keep the food from spoiling. The bacteria compete with one another as well. It is an environment where only the strong survive. When you eat fermented food, these probiotic organisms are not dormant (like they are in capsules); they are “alive and kicking.”
With fermented foods there are additional benefits. The products formed during the fermentation include B vitamins, vitamin C, short-chain fatty acids and acids used for digestion. Years ago sailors learned that if they ate sauerkraut while sailing on their ships, they would not get scurvy. Raw cabbage has relatively little vitamin C, but once it is fermented, there is a tremendous increase in the amount of vitamin C. Just think of all the nutrients you are missing by not incorporating cultured foods into your diet! The acids and enzymes found in sauerkraut inhibit the growth of pathogens, while “feeding” the good flora. Hands down, fermented foods win over lab grown supplements in their potency, viability, strength, and additional nutrients.
What are lactic acid bacteria?
Lactic acid bacteria are a group of gram positive, non-spore forming bacteria which carry out the lactic acid fermentation of sugar. The species of bacteria which fall into this category are: Lactobacillus, Leuconomoc, Streptococcus, and Pediococcus. These bacteria help to create and maintain a healthy environment in the intestines, diminish pathogenic organisms, improve the immune system and aid in digestion. Lactic acid, in large quantities, establishes a higher acid environment in the intestines, which promotes growth of friendly bacteria. In addition, carcinogenic producing enzymes are reduced. These bacteria promote a decrease in blood cholesterol levels, improve the body's immune system by providing resistance to colds and other contagious diseases, and they help lactose-intolerant individuals to digest milk sugar. Caucasus Kefir Capsules are loaded with lactic acid bacteria.
Many people do not see significant results with lab-grown probiotic supplements. This has given many the feeling that probiotics are a joke, propaganda, or that they do not work. If you have digestive tract problems and probiotics have not worked for you, this might be why.
In our family we love cultured vegetables, especially living sauerkraut. We drink and eat lots of cultured dairy, we make kombuchu, and we make coconut kefir. I am amazed at the difference in my health when I include cultured foods on a regular basis. Weston A. Price traveled the world during the early 1900’s, studying cultures that were healthy and who lived a long time. He discovered many things that were secrets to their health. One of the things that all these cultures had in common was that they all ate some form of cultured/fermented food. For more information on Weston A. Price and his findings, please go to The Weston A. Price Foundation or the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. You can also read about Weston A. Price’s work in the book he published in 1939: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
Are all probiotics the same?
Beneficial effects of probiotics depend upon the strain chosen, level of consumption, duration and frequency of exposure, and the physical condition of the individual. You should not consider probiotics as the latest "magic pill," but instead integrate consumption into your daily healthy dietary and lifestyle strategies. All probiotics are not equal and must be clinically proven to be effective. In order for probiotics to be effective, they must be able to survive the bile and acid levels of the intestines, and adhere or colonize to the intestinal lining so they can produce a protective microbial barrier (colonization).
The micro-organisms in Caucasus Kefir Capsules have excellent survival into the intestinal tract and do very well at re-colonizing. Yes, Caucasus Kefir Capsules are a probiotic supplement. However, they are unlike other probiotic supplements. Even the cultured “super stains” of bacteria are being grown on media in labs. Eventually they will lose their strength and virulence. It is only a matter of time before there is no difference between them and the laboratory strains they already have. The difference between the Caucasus Kefir Capsules and all other probiotic supplements is how they are grown. For more information, please read the article on Causasus Kefir Capsules.
The importance of probiotic colonization of the intestines
The microbial colonization of the intestines has important implications for humans, ranging from effects on susceptibility to infection, to the efficient digestion of food, to the handling of toxic or carcinogenic substances in the body.
Colonization of friendly bacteria inhibits growth of other pathogens directly through the production of anti-microbial and antibacterial compounds such as cytokines and butyric acid. By competing with pathogenic organisms for nutrients and binding or adhering to receptor sites that pathogens occupy, the friendly bacteria can reduce the numbers of the pathogens.
These friendly bacteria can also alter acidity and oxygen levels, improve immune function, stimulate immuno-modulatory cells, and produce bacterioncins, peroxide or other metabolic end products such as lactic acid. These substances reduce the gut pH and acetic acid. Colonizing your body with good probiotic bacteria will also help promote your body's overall natural defense by forming a barrier to keep out "bad" bacteria.
So what about the Caucasus Kefir Capsules?
Aren’t they a probiotic supplement?
Yes, the Caucasus Kefir Capsules are a probiotic supplement. However, they are unlike other probiotic supplements. Even the cultured “super stains” of bacteria are being grown on media in labs. Eventually they will lose their strength and virulence. It is only a matter of time before there is no difference between them and the laboratory strains they already have. The difference between the Caucasus Kefir Capsules and all other probiotic supplements is how they are grown.
This is why we have chosen to carry this probiotic supplement
In the Caucasus Mountains of Russia the people are noted for their longevity. Scientists now say one of the reasons is their wonderful water and the other reason is their kefir. Kefir from the Caucasus Mountains is loaded with friendly micro-organisms that re-populate the digestive tract.
A missionary in the Causasus Mountains brought kefir grains back to the United States with her several years ago. A scientist friend, who analyzed them for her, found there to be over 28 different species of friendly bacteria present. Today those same kefir grains are grown in goat's milk and then the cultures are freeze-dried. These wonderful microorganisms are put into capsules and can easily be taken with each meal. They can be a great help in gaining the health benefits that the people of the Caucasus Mountains have had for centuries.
Caucasus Kefir Capsules have over 28 different organisms. Unlike other probiotic supplements, it is hard to separate out all the different organisms found in Caucasus Kefir Capsules because they all grown together. Because they are grown together, it is also hard to count the colonies and know the exact amount of any one strain. These organisms are all grown on goat milk as the growing medium. They initially compete with other organisms, they produce those important products of fermentation, and they compete with each other. Competition makes them strong and healthy. Yes, they are dormant while they are in the capsule, but when they come alive in your intestinal tract, they are more able to survive, and they are part of an army (or as part of a community if that makes you feel better). These organisms have never had it easy as most laboratory organisms have had. They have never been “lone rangers.”
Personally, I believe that the best possible choices for building healthy probiotic cultures are cultured, fermented foods. However, many people do not have the time in their busy lives to do that. Many people cannot find fermented foods at the health food store, or it may be too expensive. Probiotic capsules are convenient and easy to take. So if you are not able to eat cultured, fermented foods, for what ever reason, choose to take cultures in capsules grown from a living food. That is the next best option. You will find it far superior to a laboratory grown, man selected group of organisms, such as you find in other probiotic supplements.
Supplementing Single Organisms vs. a Community of Organisms
Most probiotic supplements do not have half the organisms that Caucasus Kefir Capsules contain. Taking just one organism such as lactobacillus acidophilus serves to create an intestine that is heavily imbalanced with that one organism. Using just a few organisms is better. But supplementing with a wide variety of organisms is the best. When you supplement with a whole community of organisms, you get the entire community transferred into your intestinal tract. When that probiotic source is a natural food that contains a balanced probiotic community, it is like transplanting that community. This is the absolute best way to achieve balance in the intestines.