Well that has to do with the composition and state of the small and large intestine. There’s anywhere from about 10-100 billion microbes present in the small and large intestine. This helps us understand why giving a probiotic or eating fermented foods makes a difference, because there’s enough probiotics present in the average capsule to replenish and encourage growth of good bacteria. Also, the small intestine is approximate 20 ft long, so it houses about 95% of the bacteria that live in our intestines. The large intestine on the other hand is only 4 ft long, but because things are moving much slower through the large intestine the bacteria layer in the mucosa can be up to 200 cells thick, compared to 1 cell thick in the small intestine. This allows this shorter stretch of organ to still accommodate 10-100 billion microbes.
As I mentioned before there are many studies that have been done and are currently being done on the effects of probiotics and the microbiome as a whole. If you did a simple google or pubmed search you would come up with 1000s of results. I can’t summarize all of them, but here are a few highlights:
INFANTS AND PROBIOTICS
Eczema, asthma and allergy have become much more of a problem over the past few decades than they ever were before. In the Swansea baby Allergy Prevention Trial they looked to see if intervening with probiotics at an early age could reduce the incidence of allergy, and atopic conditions by extension. The intervention was given to newborns for the first 6 months after birth. The outcome was a follows:
Placebo group: Almost 10% of infants had atopic eczema at 6 months; Approximately 13% of infants had atopic eczema at 2 years.
Probiotic group: Approximately 3% of infants had atopic eczema at 6 months; almost 6% of infants had atopic eczema at 2 years.
The overall reduction of infants with allergy was 57% at 2 years. Remember, they only received treatment for the first 6 months. This demonstrates that the positive benefit of intervention goes beyond the intervention period.
PROBIOTICS AND ANTIBIOTICS
Most people are aware that we should take probiotics when we take an antibiotic. However, how much, when and for how long make a difference? One study, The Cambridge Clostridium difficile trial looked at the impact of probiotics to prevent/reduce C. difficile infection and associated diarrhea in patients receiving antibiotics. The outcome was as follows:
Antibiotic/Placebo group: When tested at Day 28 they still had overgrowth or dysbiosis present
Antibiotics followed by probiotic: They had a growth of bacteria up to Day 7, but then at Day 28 there was a significant decrease in bacterial overgrowth
Antibiotics with Probiotics: There was no overgrowth of bacteria at Day 7 or 28 because the probiotics were present throughout antibiotic treatment
This study demonstrates that by taking probiotics while receiving antibiotics you can decrease the chances of bacterial overgrowth occurring at all. However, it is still beneficial to intervene with probiotics later on as it will help to bring bacterial overgrowth under control.
Choices: Making sense of what’s available on the market
As happens with most things in the market, as they get more popular there tends to be more people interested in developing a product for it. Over the last few years we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of probiotics available at the store. Knowing you have all these choices, how do you make the right choice for you? Well, there’s no short and easy answer to that. There are a number of factors you want to consider:
Knowing these things makes it much easier for you to select an appropriate probiotic. If you don’t know the answer to these questions or aren’t sure, then you may want to speak to a Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare professional. When I go through this process with my patients, we figure out which probiotic (if any) might be best for them so it’s much easier to find what they need when they go to purchase a product from the health food store.
Have questions about probiotics or how to improve your gut health overall? Please email me through the website ‘contact’ page or get in touch with me directly.
Note: Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor today about getting assessed and treated if needed, and as always talk to your health care provider before beginning any new medication or supplement. This information is not meant to replace the advice/guidance of a medical professional, nor should it be acted upon by individuals unsupervised by the appropriate healthcare provider.
Allen SJ et al 2014 Arch Dis Child
Plummer et al 2005, Int J Antimicrob Agents 26
In the US:
· Number of people in the U.S. who have either allergy or asthma symptoms: 1 in 5.
· Percentage of the U.S. population that tests positive to one or more allergens: 55%.
The prevalence of asthma in different countries varies widely, but the disparity is narrowing due to rising prevalence in low and middle income countries and plateauing in high income countries.
Suffering from allergies can be a very irritating experience. If you or your child is suffering from allergies, it is best to take them to a Naturopathic Doctor who can perform a proper assessment and form a treatment plan that will address your/your child’s needs. Always speak to your health care provider before beginning any new medications or supplements.
Allergy Statistics and Facts. WebMD. Reviewed by Johnson, K. (2012). http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics
Asthma Statistics. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/asthma-statistics.aspx
Romm, A. 2003. Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health. Celestial Arts.
Skowron, JM. 2009. Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics. CCNM Press. Print.
Cold and Flu season stats
To start, there are over 200 different viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness (fever, headaches, aches and pains, coughs, runny nose). According to a recent Cochrane review, the flu vaccine might only be effective against Influenza A and B, which represents about 10% of all circulating viruses (Jefferson et al, 2013). The authors’ conclusion from that review was, “Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.” (Jefferson et al., 2013).
Period of Contagiousness
You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
How Flu Spreads
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.
Additional Helpful Measures
Think drinking tea is just for your grandma? Well think again!
In a Harvard study, they found that people who drank 5 cups a day of black tea for 2 weeks had 10 times more virus-fighting interferon in their blood than others who drank a placebo hot drink. The amino acid responsible for this immune boost, L-theanine, is abundant in both black and green tea—decaf versions have it, too.
Your optimal dose: Several cups daily. To get up to five times more antioxidants from your tea bags, bob them up and down while you brew.
Infusion vs. Decoction
An infusion is a water-based preparation made by steeping leaves, flowers, and other non-woody parts of a plant in either hot or cold water. The traditional cup of herb tea is the archetypal infusion.
A decoction is also water based, but it’s done by gently simmering the herb in boiling water. This method is used for tougher plant parts, such as roots, barks and seeds.
Powders: What are they good for?
Usually when people think of tea they think of the leaves and flowers of the plant in a cup of hot water. However, there are certain herbs that are better made into an infusion using the powdered form. For example, some herbs are rich in volatile oils that are medicinally useful and when boiled will evaporate and be lost. Valerian root is an example of a woody part that would be better ground to powder and prepared as an infusion. The preparation method usually depends on the use of the herb. This is why it is important to consult with a trained practitioner because they can help you select the most appropriate herb and preparation method based on your particular health concerns.
Note: This presentation is not meant to replace the advice of a trained practitioner. In order to formulate a proper treatment plan, you should consult with your Naturopathic Doctor or other health care provider.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Seasonal Influenza: Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Formulation and Preparation of Herbal Medicines. Healing Arts Press. Print.
Jefferson et al. (2013). Vaccines to prevent influenza in health adults. http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD001269/vaccines-to-prevent-influenza-in-healthy-adults.
Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors. (2013). Staying Healthy in Cold and Flu Season. http://www.oand.org/staying-healthy-in-cold-and-flu-season/
Public Health Agency of Canada. (Nov 2, 2013). Flu Watch: Influenza/ILI Activity (geographic spread). http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fluwatch/13-14/w44_13/pdf/fw2013-44-eng.pdf
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.