If you are one of the millions of people who are concerned about their health and well-being, you have probably read about the many health benefits of probiotics. Having a good amount of friendly and beneficial bacteria throughout your gastrointestinal tract for the most part determines how efficiently your immune system can respond to invading pathogens, to prevent infections from developing and to help control inflammation. Something you may not know is that probiotic destroyers can fight against your gastrointestinal “good guys”. Because of this, it becomes very important to be able to recognize what these probiotic destroyers are and what they can do.
Your gut flora has the largest numbers of bacteria and the greatest number of species compared to other areas of your body. As of 2014, it was often reported in popular media and in the scientific literature that there are about 10 times as many microbial cells in the human body as there are human cells; this figure was based on estimates that the human microbiome includes around 100 trillion bacterial cells and that an adult human typically has around 10 trillion human cells. In 2016, another group published a new estimate of the ratio being roughly 1:1 (1.3:1, with “an uncertainty of 25% and a variation of 53% over the population of standard 70-kg males”). It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut. It is also interesting to note that our skin and digestive system, by themselves, host about 2,000 different types of bacteria.
Good gut bacteria actually happens at birth as our eyes, nose, lips, and mouth go through our mother’s birth canal. This handover of good flora from mother to baby plants the seeds for the new colonies that will begin to colonize the respiratory, urogenital, and gastrointestinal tracts of the baby. Unfortunately, more and more babies are being deprived of this “first natural inoculation” because of the increasing cesarean section rates. For instance in 1965, when cesarean section rates were first assessed in the USA, the surgery happened in only 4.5 percent of all births. In 2002 the number expanded to 27 percent. By 2009, it was at an unsurpassed high of 34 percent. The “second natural inoculation” comes from colostrum of the mother’s “first milk” expressed for the first few days following birth. Babies who aren’t breastfed or born vaginally start life with a great shortcoming when it comes to setting-up healthy microflora.
The many benefits of probiotics have been confirmed to be valuable in reinforcing immune health, decreasing inflammation, encouraging healthy digestion, as well as supporting healthy skin, especially when combined with prebiotics.
The good gut bacteria residing in your gut is in charge of:
- Generating vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K2.
- Crowding out bad microbes.
- Creating enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria.
- Promoting secretion of IgA and regulatory T-cells, which support immune function.
Unfortunately our environment and lifestyles have become incredibly toxic to the microorganisms that make up our gut microbiome. This damage, as you have read above, often starts as early as birth and can eventually result in many health issues. Let’s take a look.
Top 10 Probiotic Destroyers
1. Prescription Antibiotics (R)
Many things can disrupt gut bacteria, particularly the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics (means “against life”) broadly destroy all bacteria in the body as a way of eradicating disease. Certainly antibiotics can be lifesavers when used properly and when nothing else will work. Unfortunately, most people who take antibiotics never make any effort afterward to reestablish the good bacteria in their gut. There is now some evidence that the gut never fully recovers after antibiotic use. Dr. According to Martin Blaser of NYU’s Langone Medical Center: “Early evidence from my lab and others hints that, sometimes, our friendly flora never fully recover. These long-term changes to the beneficial bacteria within people’s bodies may even increase our susceptibility to infections and disease. Overuse of antibiotics could be fueling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and asthma, which have more than doubled in many populations.” This statement was written in 2011 by Dr. Blaser.
2. Sugar (R)
Bacteria feed on sugar, mainly pathogenic bacteria that are sustaining an unbalanced gut. Yeast does not feed on yeast, it feeds on sugar. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American consumes between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in one year! It’s no wonder most the gut of most Americans is terribly compromised!
3. GMO Foods(R)
An herbicide used in GM crops, glyphosate, has been exposed in upsetting intestinal microflora balance and furthering the growth of harmful bacterial strains. This can reduce the immune system, augment infection rates as well as influence mood and behavior. Digestive enzymes may be reduced following consumption of GMO foods, leading to weakened digestion. Research continues to tell us that GMO crops, particularly those that contain glyphosate and Bt toxin, harm microvilli in the intestinal tract comparable to that of Celiac disease. Research is undecided if this is contributing to the actual rise of Celiac disease; however, it could absolutely be a factor.
4. Inflammatory Gluten (R)
Inflammation from wheat is a worry even for people who aren’t specifically sensitive to gluten. Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs) can provoke an inflammatory immune response in the GI tract by stimulating immune cells. This can happen irrespective of whether celiac disease is present or not. It’s a completely different matter from gluten and can cause issues for you regardless of whether or not you’re sensitive to gluten. This inflammation can lead to intestinal permeability which is a vital factor in the progression of autoimmune diseases.
5. Emotional Stress (R)
strointestinal tract is sensitive to emotion. Anger, anxiety, sadness, elation — all of these feelings (and others) can trigger symptoms in the gut which then can affect your gut flora balance. Your brain has a direct effect on your stomach and intestines. For example, just the thought of eating can release your stomach’s juices before food is even put into your mouth. And this connection goes both ways. An unsettled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as an unsettled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal trouble can be the cause or the result of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are closely connected.
6. Alcohol (R)
Alcohol abuse can cause dysbiosis which is an unevenness in the gut microbiota. A study published in May 2015 indicates that alcohol abuse changes the composition of gut microbiota. Alcohol can also cause gut permeability known as leaky gut syndrome. However, there is an exception in the case of red wine. There are some opinions that, because it contains polyphenols that support probiotic activity, red wine actually “promotes” gut health. In one study, red wine was found to increase Bifidobacterium and Prevotella. This may have beneficial effects on the gut microbiome by lowering plasma lipopolysaccharides, a type of endotoxin that triggers an immune response.
7. Lack of Exercise (R)
Studies have found that exercise may change the composition and activity of the trillions of microbes in your gut in ways that could definitely improve your health and metabolism over time. Researchers also suggest they notice changes in the gut microbiome after just six weeks of exercise. However, the gut makeup returned to normal after exercise was stopped which demonstrates yet another reason why daily exercise is important.
8. Over Sanitation (R)
Intense changes in our sanitation practices can have an effect on your gut. This includes the widespread use of cleansers, especially antibacterial soaps, shampoos, and skin care products.
9. Smoking (R)
Cigarette smoking is one of the most important environmental risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease, a disease characterized by ongoing inflammation of the digestive tract. Smokers are twice as likely to have Crohn’s disease, a common type of inflammatory bowel disease, compared to non-smokers. In one study, smoking cessation increased gut flora diversity, which is a marker of a healthy gut.
10. Poor Sleep Habits (R)
Your gut follows a daily rhythm much like the body’s circadian rhythm. Interrupting your body clock by a lack of sleep, shift work or eating late at night may have undesirable effects on your gut bacteria. A 2016 study studied the effects of short-term sleep deprivation on gut flora composition. The study compared the effects of two nights of sleep deprivation (about 4 hours per night) versus two nights of normal sleep duration (8.5 hours) in nine men. Just two days of sleep deprivation caused subtle changes to the gut flora and increased the abundance of bacteria associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and fat metabolism.
Other Probiotic Destroyers
- Over a period of time, colonies of friendly bacteria naturally age and thus lose their strength.
- Disturbances and changes in the acid/alkaline balance of the intestines can play a chief role in decreasing the growth of beneficial bacteria. These changes almost always favor the growth of harmful viral and fungal organisms as well as putrefactive, disease-causing bacteria.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as Advil, Motrin, Midol, etc. are damaging to gut flora and can encourage stomach and intestinal bleeding as well as increase the permeability of the entire GI tract. This can lead to health issues such as allergic reactions (food allergies), excessive stress on the immune system, and the spread of toxins throughout the entire body. Researchers have also discovered that prolonged use of NSAIDs for rheumatoid arthritis can upset the intestinal mucus lining and flora and may contribute to the continuation of the disease.
- Chlorinated drinking water not only serves to kill bacteria in the water; but can make it almost impossible to maintain perfect bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Chlorine kills all bacteria, regardless of whether they are good or bad.
- Radiation and chemotherapy are destructive to your inner bacterial environment.
- Antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills are all fat soluble. This permits them to easily perforate the intestinal wall. There is a direct and extensive connection between your intestines and your brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants are believed to help depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is in the digestive system. With these drugs, serotonin is redirected from the intestinal tract, causing a chemical imbalance in the area. This explains side effects such as instabilities in appetite, nausea, and stomach upset. These drugs attach to gut receptors that tend to sedate and depress gastrointestinal movement which results in constipation. This partially explains why the gut produces serotonin – to help maintain a state of calm in the gut so that good digestion, absorption and assimilation can happen.
- A diet high in meats and fats, because they take so long to break down in the human body, promotes the growth of the harmful, putrefying bacteria.
- Constipation allows harmful bacteria to stay in the gut too long, allowing these bacteria to multiply.
- Exposure to heavy metals, sterilized foods and increased use of vaccinations are also major culprits, as are some antibiotic herbs, such as goldenseal if taken in sufficient quantity and/or used too often.
The good news is that you can do something to keep probiotic destroyers away by keeping your intestinal flora in good health. Taking a high-quality probiotic makes sense for all of us – both children and adults. Even if you’ve never taken an antibiotic, you have most likely been exposed to antibiotic residues through your drinking water or through food. And as mentioned above, so many things can disrupt gut flora, from chlorine in drinking water to painkillers to radiation to the natural aging process. The best route is to use a high-quality probiotic that contains a good spectrum of super strains guaranteed to remain viable at the time of consumption (not just time of manufacture).
Another way to counteract the many destroyers of probiotics is digestive tract cleansing and supplementing. I recommend to clients and personally use Oxy-Powder® to cleanse the digestive tract, Latero-Flora™ to populate the intestines with beneficial probiotics, and Livatrex® to support healthy liver and gallbladder function. Performing digestive tract cleansing several times a year can help you maintain a healthy gut while eliminating toxins. Including an enzyme supplement in your natural health protocol to enhance your efforts is also suggested.
Research & Resources
Kesser, Chris. “The high price of antibiotic use: Can our guts ever fully recover?” 10 February 2012. Chris Kesser: Let’s Take Back Your Health. 29 June 2018. https://chriskresser.com/the-high-price-of-antibiotic-use-can-our-guts-ever-fully-recover/
Sarah. “Antibiotic Damage to Gut Flora May Be Permanent.” 7 February 2018. The Healthy Home Economist. 29 June 2018. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/antibiotic-damage-to-gut-flora-may-be-permanent/
Shehata AA, Schrodl W, Aldin AA, Hafez HM, Kruger M. “The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro.” Current Microbiology. 2013 April;66(4):350-8. doi: 10.1007/s00284-012-0277-2.
Kruger M, Shehata AA, Schrodi W, Rodioff A. “Glyphosate suppresses the antagonistic effect of Enterococcus spp. on Clostridium botulinum.” Anaerobe. 2013 April;20:74-8. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2013.01.005.
Senapati, A. K. Mukerjee and A. R. Ghosh. “Observations on the effect of glyphosate based herbicide on ultra structure (SEM) and enzymatic activity in different regions of alimentary canal and gill of Channa punctatus (Bloch).” Journal of Crop and Weed. 5(1): 236-245 (2009).