For a number of years now the use of probiotic food supplements* (check the note at the end of this article) has been trendy in western countries. I took them on a daily basis for several years because I used to believe in their benefits as did most alternative health practitioners. But I have always questioned health care whether it is alternative or mainstream especially when it is highly promoted by the media. We have to remember that most (if not all?) food supplements manufacturers are owned directly or indirectly by pharmaceutical companies, which are themselves owned by big cartels. And as a pharmaceutical company, its primary concern is not people’s health but big bucks in their pockets. It is also unquestionable that Big Pharma and Big Money have been planning for years on weakening the human body, mainly through the weakening of the immune system. Hence my questions about the benefits of highly concentrated probiotics taken on a daily basis. What could be the hidden agenda behind the thrust for probiotics consumption?
It has been a challenge to back up my doubts regarding the true benefits of probiotics. I finally understood the impact probiotics had on our overall health through my own experience with them, as I have always been my own guinea pig for experimentation! I finally came to the conclusion that probiotic food supplements* taken every day are not as beneficial as we think, especially when we are healthy (symptom free!). This statement is not backed up by any scientific authority since it is almost impossible to find information that supports this view point. The conclusion I am about to share with you comes from my own observation, good-sense and cellular intuition. My belief is that non-naturally occurring substances as well as unnatural concentration of substances that are found in most food supplements, should be taken temporarily, within a therapeutic framework and not as part of a lifelong daily routine (read more about it at the end of this article).
100 TRILLION GERMS IN OUR GUT
Our intestinal flora hosts over 100 trillion “good” and mistakenly called ‘pathogenic’ germs which live in perfect symbiosis within our body (read the results of the Human Microbiome Project: In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria). We actually have 10 to 100 times more germs in our body than cells and we are still alive! There are thousands of different types of germs in our intestines. Actually, within us, we host ALL naturally-occurring germs that exist on the planet – what an incredible biodiversity! In fact, as the Human Microbiom Project demonstrated, the microbial diversity and count is as unique to each individual as are our DNA or fingerprints – it reveals our specific bio-identity. But our frantic lifestyles, numerous immunizations, constant irradiation, over-disinfection, use of drugs and medications, chemical contamination of our food, air and water have seriously weakened our intestinal flora. Nevertheless, there are so many different germs because they are needed for the balance and survival of our body. These new findings deconstruct the scientific dogma that germs are our enemies and need to be destroyed. It is quite the opposite; they are foundational to our survival. As Professor Lucien Israel, a renowned French scientist once said: “Bacteria are as vital as oxygen”.
THE KILLING OF OUR MICROBIAL DIVERSITY
What happens when we take probiotic supplements* which contain, at most 1 to 12 strains of bacteria? It is an invasion! The ‘invader’ germs oust the other species so they can no longer develop. We destroy our unique biodiversity and impose a standard “clean” landscape. It is very similar with what is occurring with our civilization, on which we impose a global homogeneous culture and standard sterile urban landscape!
Dr Hamer, a German M.D., discovered over 2 decades ago that each type of germ fulfills a very specific function in the maintenance and the healing of tissues. If the tissue of a specific organ is sick and the ‘germ’ that specializes in repairing it is no longer available, then the tissue cannot heal completely or its repair will be of a poor quality. Then we wonder why we don’t heal faster or the healing seems incomplete. Armed with this knowledge, we can imagine the devastating effect that vaccination has on our body – it actually eradicates an entire microbial species. In fact, each germ acts like a specialized worker. If we see our body as a house and we have an electrical problem, we call the electrician to fix it, not the plumber. If there is no electrician available, you can imagine the result. The plumber can help but… This is what is happening in our body when we are deprived of specific types of germs.
THE GERM – IMMUNITY BOUND
Most of us are familiar with the concept that our intestinal flora is the foundation of our immunity. We commonly hear that a healthy intestinal flora brings about a strong immunity. Indeed, our immunity first and foremost relies on our 100 trillion intestinal germs. As proven by the Human Microbiom Project researchers, the primary function of germs is to maintain the integrity of our cells and to participate in the synthesis of vital enzymes and vitamins. The number of germs is important for a good immune response but it is also the diversity of our germ-landscape that equally defines the strength of our immune system. Poor germ diversity brings about poor immunity! This is an aspect of the equation that is never discussed among the proponents of probiotics. Therefore, when I take probiotic food supplements*, I decrease my germ-biodiversity and as a result I also weaken my immune response. Quite the opposite of what is promoted!
THE VICIOUS CYCLE
Another major side-effect of the intake of probiotic food supplements* needs to be highlighted. Most of us know that the microbial flora greatly participates in the digestive processes and is responsible for the good digestion of food. The same principle applies to digestion: certain types of germs digest certain types of foods (or wastes that come from food digestion). Similarly, the less germ diversity I have, the less I am able to properly digest the food I eat. The digestion of certain foods (or wastes from food digestion) will be incomplete and create digestive discomfort or even lead to more serious problems.
As a reminder, incomplete digestion brings about an increase of wastes and toxins in the intestines and blood, which brings about a higher acidity level. In turn, high acidity creates inflammation of the intestines/colon, and the rest of the body. This is the condition that defines the Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS).
This is what I experienced several years ago when I first took probiotic food supplements* on a daily basis. At first, I did not feel a significant difference but after a few months I started to feel constantly bloated and gained a few pounds which I could not lose. After talking with a colleague of mine, she suggested I took digestive enzymes as well. She said that I was probably not producing enough digestive enzymes. This often happens as we age. But, as a good naturopath, I was eating fairly healthy (mostly vegetarian and organic) and at the time I was only 32, still young don’t you think! I did feel better after adding some digestive enzymes but the additional pounds remained. Then I was told through muscle testing that I had a food sensitivity (or intolerance) and had to follow a stricter diet free of gluten, dairy… in short, all the good things that make a meal fully enjoyable! That was the last straw…too constraining, I could not commit to such a diet.
It was a few months later that I understood the vicious cycle of probiotics-digestive enzymes-acidity after I had stopped taking all the food supplements. I felt much better on many levels and the constant bloating disappeared after a few weeks. I gradually went back to my normal weight range. From then on I started to question the benefits of probiotics and digestive enzymes. I continued researching and sharing my opinion with health professionals but no one seemed to agree with my doubts. Nevertheless, I became more cautious when recommending food supplements to my clients. I starting to observe and listen to their feedback.
HOW TO KEEP A HEALTHY FLORA
What then should we do to replenish our intestinal floral? Let’s start with an age-old remedy that has been the most efficient and the most cost-effective but of course, we have been brainwashed to avoid it as the plague: to be in contact as much as possible with germs naturally available in nature, soil, trees, flowers, animals, human beings, etc. They are everywhere, on all objects and things that we are in contact with in our daily life, whether we live in the city or the country. But we have been trained to sanitize everything and avoid germs at all cost.
The first step to a healthy flora is to stop over-sanitizing our hands, bodies, objects and foods with products that kill all life forms. Our good old soap is enough for a healthy hygiene. Then let’s get back to the basics: eat fresh raw vegetables which come directly “from dirt” and don’t wash them with food sanitizing products. A nice rinse under clear running water is enough, just to get rid of the excess dirt and insects. Fresh, raw, garden vegetables are loaded with “healthy” germs. Yummy!
The best element naturally loaded with the full array of microorganisms is soil. It is time to get back in contact with it in our backyards, parks or the countryside. Touch it, play with it or even eat it if you want, just like children intuitively do when they are allowed to do so. Soil is available everywhere on the planet and it is free. You can’t beat that!
Finally, to replenish your flora, you have old-fashion made cultured foods such as yogurts, cheeses, cultured veggies. By old-fashion, I refer to the use of natural strands of bacteria used in a reasonable amount for the fermentation of some foods. I recommend their consumption as long as it is in moderation – you can never go wrong with moderation. In opposition, laboratory-produced strands (that they sell as natural!) used in all industrially-produced cheese, yogurt, etc. do not have the same beneficial effects. Not to mention, overloaded cultured foods such as some industrial brands of yogurts, which are sold as good for your health might actually be detrimental to your health.
I remember, about 17 years ago, I was interviewed for a trainee position at Danone’s to work on the development of “foodication” – food as medication, yes, you heard correctly! While I was listening to the recruiter’s description of the future of food, I was horrified. That day I understood that the food industry was not planning on making people healthier but rather on hooking them on foods which they would depend on for life. This experience with the food industry re-enforced my decision to respect my core beliefs regarding optimal health and prevention and not to sell my soul for great career opportunity and money.
In my opinion, there are 3 situations I would recommend using probiotics food supplements* but NOT before the person first changes her diet, tries probiotic-rich foods like healthy cultured foods mentioned above or does a course of treatment with living ultra-ventilated clay (if there is no counter-indication). Clay does not kill germs; it only neutralizes the ones that are not useful for the organism and carries them out of the body. Here are the three situations where I would recommend the use of probiotic food supplements:
- When a person takes antibiotics or any other medications; drugs are naturally anti-life so the body would need some assistance to cope with their side-effects. I would use some probiotics during the period the drugs are used and continue 2-4 weeks afterward and then stop.
- When a specific strand of germ tends to over-develop and gets out of control to the point that it brings great discomfort to the person (like some types of candida infection). Use probiotics only if the person feels a significant improvement after a few days of use. If not, I would stop the probiotics.
- In older people who naturally have a deprived intestinal flora. I would apply the same rule, if the person does not feel any significant sign of improvement, I would stop.
To conclude, when you are healthy, the best way to maintain a healthy flora is to stay away from probiotic food supplements*! Let us remember one more time, in nature everything is intelligent and purposeful.
* In this article, probiotic food supplements refer to manufactured, isolated and highly concentrated probiotics found in common food supplements and some industrial foods. I am not talking about naturally-occurring probiotics that come from natural food fermentation made out of a reasonable amount of culture (homemade cultured foods, yogurt, cheese, etc).