I had the pleasure of attending a lecture recently by Dr. Nigel Plummer, a respected researcher in the field of probiotics. Yes, there is a whole field of research on just probiotics alone. Probiotics and their impact on the microbiome is one of the areas of fastest growing research in the healthcare world.
So what are probiotics?
To make it simple they are the collection of good bacteria located in our digestive tract. They should make up a large percentage of our microbiome. The number of bacteria we have in our gut outnumber the number of cells we have in our body. We want to make sure that we have more of the good guys in there and not the bad guys.
So what are the basics we need to know about probiotics?
1.Taking a probiotic during AND after antibiotics is crucial.
Consider these results from a clinical trial:
- antibiotic without probiotics – significant growth of undesirable bacteria in the gut; undesirable bacteria present at day 7 and persisted at day 28
- probiotics after antibiotics – significant growth of undesirable bacteria present at day 7 but gone on day 28
- probiotics along with antibiotics – no undesirable bacteria at day 7 or 28
Conclusion: take probiotics during and after antibiotics to protect your microbiome
2. The quality of your microbiome in your first 3 years of life determines the quality of your microbiome for the rest of your life.
After the first 3 years of life, the effect of permanent colonization has been completed. This critical time will be most affected by vaginal versus C-section birth, breastfed versus bottle-fed, antibiotic use, and the quality and variety of the diet.
If you were born by C-section, you were bottle-fed, you had antibiotics in the first 3 years of life, and your diet was primarily carbohydrates (cereal, pasta, bread, crackers, rice, potato, sweets, etc.), you will have a less diverse microbiome…this is not a good thing. The more diverse, the better.
If order to mitigate the negative effects of less than ideal circumstances that were not in your control, many adults may need to take probiotics continuously for optimal health.
You may also reduce or eliminate the need for your children to take probiotics as an adult if supplement them consistently until about the age of three.
Conclusion: Probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce or eliminate the need for regular supplementation as an adult
3. Probiotics reduce the risk of infections and allergies in children.
- PROCHILD study: probiotics reduced upper respiratory tract infections by 50%
- antibiotic use was decreased 40% in the probiotic group
- probiotics were given to mothers in the last trimester and to baby for 6 months; follow-ups were done at 6 months and 1 year; there was no impact on any adverse events therefore the probiotics were perfectly safe; at 6 months only 4% were allergic vs 11% in the non probiotic group, at 2 yrs the probiotic group had a 50% reduction in allergy; specifically with atopic eczema, probiotics reduced it by 60%
Conclusion: Probiotics are the safest and best preventative treatment for a strong and appropriate immune response in children.