One of the things that we strongly believe in here at Kivül Nutrition is that good health starts in the gut. Our gut is the primary barrier between our insides and the outside. (Technically speaking anything inside our gut is outside of our bodies with layers of defenses between it and our bloodstream.) The role of being the primary line of defense highlights the importance of gut in our immune system. One of the key layers of defense are the bacteria that live and reside in our gut. Among the roles they play are:
- Strengthening the physical gut wall. Gut flora produce a mucosal lining between the lumen of the gut and the cells (epithelial cells) that line the gut wall.
- They compete with pathogens (unwelcomed foreign invaders) for space and resources. When you have healthy gut bacteria consuming all of the resources and space, there isn’t any left for the bad bacteria.
- They produce antimicrobial chemicals. Certain species of gut flora can and will produce substances that combat Gram-negative bacteria (gram-negative bacteria include Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria the cause respiratory illnesses.)
- They regulate inflammatory responses. They help keep inflammation in it’s proper place, not stifling it but neither letting it get out of control.
- They aid in the digestion of macronutrients.
Having and maintaining a healthy gut flora can dramatically affect your health for the better.
But, what if you are like one of 65% of Americans (particularly among minorities, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics) who have problems with digesting lactose or suffer from lactose intolerance? Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar lactose found primarily in dairy products like milk. Lactose is broken down by the enzyme called lactase which is produced in the cells lining small intestines. Lactose intolerance can be caused by congenital deficiencies or by reduced production of lactase that may occur with age. If people with lactose intolerance eat lactose-containing dairy products, they experience abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours later.
So what’s a lactose intolerant person to do? Change their diet is one option. There appears to be another alternative on the horizon. A recent study (http://bit.ly/2s349pU), shows how a specific strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus (DD1-S) can help alleviate lactose intolerance symptoms. Researchers performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study evaluating the effects of the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus on relieving symptoms related to lactose intolerance. The study product was given daily for weeks and consisted of the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus (at least 1 x 1010 colony forming units/capsule). Participants were subjected to a 6-hour lactose challenge. There were statistically significant reductions in diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, and overall symptom score. This is encouraging news for those dealing with lactose intolerance.
The bad news is that there will be many suppliers of probiotics who will take this information and use it to promote their products. Here is a simple PRO-TIP - there are lots of news products with probiotics, many containing multiple strains. A quality supplier will list the genetic strain identifier on their labels (in this example this would Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1; where DDS-1 is the genetic identifier). This unique identifier is what ties the strain to specific benefits/results from scientific studies. Without the unique identifier, there is no confidence that the consumer is getting a strain or strains of bacteria that will actually confer any benefit. (For more read here http://nyti.ms/2tNxskl). The products may give benefit or they may not but why take a risk and spend money on something that may or may not work. Just this year the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN and the International Probiotics Association (IPA) released labeling guidelines for manufacturers and seller of probiotic products (http://bit.ly/2tNrzDT). In it, they make clear recommendations to label the species, genus and strain of the probiotic organism contained in the product. See the figure below for examples that follow these guidelines.
A simple way to ensure quality is to review the label of the product you are purchasing. I recommend shying away from labels that have strains that lack the unique genetic identifier and stick with products that do. Please note, that these recommendations are voluntary and not regulated. You eliminate the companies that don’t invest in quality strains by doing this simple research. When you do select probiotics with genetic identifiers you are getting the assurance that that product will give you the benefits you are looking.
Probiotics are a great supplement to help you get and maintain a healthy gut. Like with all things, it matters what you buy and hopefully, this little tip will help you make better decisions when it comes to making your next purchase.