Probiotics: beneficial or spore taste?

Written by Special Contributor, Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN

Spore probiotics are spore forming bacteria or soil-based organisms (SBO’s) that come from Mother Nature. Synergistic in nature, they come from the soil and are found in animals as well. Spores are like tiny seeds that blossom in the warm, humid climate of our intestines. It is generally believed that in modern day we have lost touch with the earth (literally) and therefore we could be lacking in these beneficial bacteria that may offer a wide array of benefits. The most widely studied spore species may arguably be Bacillus subtilis, however there are MANY more!

B subtilis is a spore commonly found in the soil around the root and grass level. It is known as one of the most resistant gram-positive bacteria. B subtilis started its journey as a supplement in 1958 when an Italian company began using it as a treatment for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. SIBO is a condition where bacteria start to grow in an unwanted territory- the small intestines. Risk factors for SIBO include chronic constipation, low stomach acid, multiple rounds of antibiotics, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, or prior bowel surgery. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, distension, constipation, diarrhea, gas/belching and malnutrition.

Spore probiotics’ biggest claim to fame is their durability: they are heat stable and can survive a low pH. There is also much science indicating they can resporulate.  All of this means they transport well in supplement form (no fridge needed!), they have a better chance of making to the intestines and they may actually re-inoculate the gut with their beneficial selves.  However, repopulation may not always be the end goal. SBO’s have been known to induce gas and other unfavorable GI symptoms. They may also stimulate the immune system, which could be beneficial for some, but not others.

Regular probiotics are native to the human body; be it in the gut, skin, nose, mouth, etc. Most effective probiotics list a genus, family and strain. A common example would be Lactobacillus (genus) rhamnosus (family) GG (strain). Probiotics with good science behind them almost always list the strains. Specific probiotics are good for specific symptoms, and the strain is what helps indicate what that particular one will do. Unfortunately probiotics are delicate bugs, so they have the highest chance of survival if taken first thing on an empty stomach, preferably with something like yogurt (for powders or open capsules).

Their delicacy brings up the point of refrigeration. Is it necessary? Why do some survive a box on the shelf and others don’t? It really just depends on the strain. Some are more delicate and require certain climates to remain stable; making it imperative to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Probiotics are also transient, and they do not repopulate. This does not take away from their strength of action. When specific strains of probiotics are correctly matched to the appropriate symptom for enough time, their effects can be seen far and wide. 

The take away here is that they are both beneficial, it just depends on what outcome you are looking for. Research (and experience) indicates certain spore forming probiotics can helpful for patients with IBS or allergies, and taken concurrently with antibiotics. Taking them for 3 months to one year may suffice.

 

More about the author:

Jennifer Barrell, MS, CNS, LDN, is a wife, mother of two perfect little ones, and a functional/clinical nutritionist currently living and helping people navigate their way to health in Naples, FL. 

When to Plant, Pull, and Prune in the Family garden

Welcome to the world of companion gardening, a concept that mirrors our place in the family and community.

Each plant in your garden needs it’s own space and particular nutrients of pH, soil makeup, water, and light. If any plant is not getting what it specifically needs then the result is poor growth, fewer fruits, an unhealthy change to the leaves and/or a vulnerability to fungus and mites. If this is the case you would investigate the problem and address the issue. The plant would be moved to another area of the garden to change the light spectrum, you would add fertilizer or you water less often. None of you would decide the plant needs to be taught a lesson and place the plant in the garden shed until it decides to grow better.

Similarly, our family members need the same attention. Notice behavior but act on needs. If someone is not working towards the good of themselves and those around them, then investigate the source of the problem, make the appropriate changes and nurture the person back to optimal health. Do they need more attention, security, love, companionship or autonomy? You would not punish the plant so why punish the person.

Those of you in my pediatric practice have heard me say, “You are raising a family, not a child.” Each member of your house has needs, such as shelter, love, autonomy, security, etc. The household is happiest when each member has their needs met, and this usually includes a good night sleep on a regular basis, daily exercise and healthy foods (even if your child has to stay in the daycare at the gym.) Each person then has an improved resilience to stress and is in a better position to assist in making life wonderful for everyone around him or her. Yes, please, sign me up for good sleep and well-behaved children.

However, if one person starts to make too many demands on the others, especially under normal circumstances, then explore why this is happening instead of resorting to the default cultural norm to punish our child with a timeout if they do not comply with our needs. All they may need is a little sunshine, fresh air, food and attention. You wouldn’t take the plant that isn’t growing well and put it in the closed garden shed to teach it a lesson so investigate what essential element of life is missing and take corrective action for your family.

I encourage parents not to fear to go against the grain with parenting.  You may consider the very real movement known as positive discipline represented in an anecdotal tale of a tribal community that encircles an individual that is misbehaving.  The tribe takes turns telling him or her all the wonderful things they do.  The tribal member realigns themselves with the needs of the group and feels centered again.  In this manner, we can borrow from positive discipline to create a culture of companion gardening to help everyone in our tribe flourish.  

I hope you will start to think of companion gardening when you are with your family. Minding what makes each of us grow while remembering the gardener is vital to the health of the whole garden and comes before everything else in the house. Take care of yourself each day so you can show your partner, children and extended family healthy boundaries that you need to keep you well. They will love your authenticity and respond in kind. The example for your children will be life altering and can create a new dynamic culture for generations to come.

Spring Renewal: A Natural Home Cleanse

Out with the old and in with the new.  A friend of mine who moved once told me that rather than finding the process chaotic, she found it cathartic. A time to take stock in what was truly needed in her home and to start fresh. Generations ago our ancestors undertook this domestic overhaul in the spring, scrubbing off months of soot and grime that had accumulated in their homes thanks to winter fires, kerosene lamps, and the impracticality of beating carpets in the snow. These days, few of us have to worry about creosote in our kitchens, but the annual ritual of spring cleaning prevails because it just feels so good when the job is done. This year, use this time of renewal to revisit your goals for living cleanly. Take a critical tour of your home, assessing how you’re living up to your own healthy standards. Have you fallen back on great intentions? No worries – we all do. Now is the time to get back on track.

Clean Up the Kitchen

What is under your sink? Purge those cleaners that claim to have magical powers but don’t list ingredients – or who’s ingredients are clearly questionable (if it is purple and smells like a meadow, it probably is questionable). Replace them with non-toxic, plant-based alternatives and avoid sprays, which disperse much of the cleaning agent into the air. It is also easy to make your own effective, inexpensive cleaners using household ingredients such as white vinegar, cornstarch, lemon, and baking soda (see recipes at eartheasy.com). Be sure to check the sink itself for leaks that may keep this area damp and attractive to mold.

How about the cabinets? Clean out old water bottles and food storage containers (including bags) and replace them with non-BPA alternatives that are now readily available at grocery stores. Eliminate non-stick cookware, or at least get rid of any that is showing signs of wear such as scratches or flaking. Consider switching to enamel or cast iron, which will become non-stick if properly seasoned. The fact that it may introduce iron into food is actually a nutritional benefit!

Detox Laundry

Ever think that maybe it isn’t a good thing that your clothes smell like perfume days after they’ve been washed? Artificial fragrances (which often contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals) and funky colors aren’t necessary to clean clothes. Use natural, environmentally-friendly detergents that are just as effective at removing dirt and odors – not masking them.  These products usually list ingredients on the package for consumers.  Hold the same standards for other laundry products like dryer sheets, stain spray, and bleach. Try natural brands that are up front about what they contain (and what they don’t).

Healthier Sleep

Dust mites be gone! Actually, it is impossible to be completely rid of these microscopic creatures, but it is relatively easy to manage them. Wash all bedding – including comforters, mattress pads, bed skirts and pillows – in very hot water. For items that can’t be laundered in hot water, adding tea tree or eucalyptus oil to cooler wash water kills the mites, and smaller items can be put in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Use a couple of teaspoons of essential oil mixed with a pint of water to damp dust furniture and clean floors. You can also buy allergy covers for the pillows and the mattress and create a physical barrier.

Move alarm clocks, phones, and other electronics away from beds to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Consider using a salt lamp. By naturally flooding an area with negative ions, salt lamps may improve air quality, reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy levels, and reduce allergy and asthma symptoms. They’re great for every room in the house!

A Better Bathroom

How’s your medicine cabinet? Clear out the post-date products and ensure a good supply of basics including supplements such as a whole food multivitamin (such as IntraKid and IntraMax) a probiotic, vitamin D and fish oil. Take a close look at your health and beauty products, eliminating those that will expose your body to irritating and harmful chemicals (see www.EWG.org and www.SaferChemicals.org) such as parabens, formaldehyde, triclosan, and phthalates in products such as moisturizers, soaps and shampoos, cosmetics, nail polish, and deodorant. Women should pay special attention to feminine care products and lubricants which may expose sensitive, highly absorptive areas to toxic chemicals. If a product doesn’t list its ingredients, move to one that does. Cotton products may pose less health risk than synthetic fibers (such as rayon), and it is best to avoid scented tampons and pads.

Take it Outside

As bulbs push their way through the soil, so do weeds. Few of us have the patience to individually pick them from our lawns (kudos to those of you who do!), so we’re understandably tempted to engage a chemical lawn care service to feed our obsession with perfect turf. STOP! Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides widely associated with neurological damage, reproductive harm and cancer are routinely used in chemical lawn care, and there are safer alternatives. Find a service that provides organic lawn care using natural fertilizers such as chicken poop. There are also many organic options for do-it-yourselfers available online or in hardware stores.

The act of spring cleaning can itself be therapeutic, so embrace the ritual! Set aside time to detox your home and start afresh. Then sit back, relax, and be mindful of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

EWG Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

EWG Dirty Dozen 2013http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.

National Farm to School Network

Farm to schoolFarm to school is the practice of sourcing local food for schools or preschools and providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, such as school gardens, farm field trips and cooking lessons. Farm to school improves the health of children and communities while supporting local and regional farmers. Since each Farm to School program is shaped by its unique community and region, the National Farm to School Network does not prescribe or impose a list of practices or products for the farm to school approach. The National Farm to School Network supports the work of local farm to school programs all over the country by providing free training and technical assistance, information services, networking, and support for policy, media and marketing activities. Our network includes national staff, eight regional lead agencies and leads in all 50 states. Click on the map above to contact the state lead in your area for more information, or contact someone on our national staff directly. We are here to help you get started and keep programs growing!

What is farm to school? 
Farm to school is broadly defined as any program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to school programs exist in all 50 states, but since farm to school is a grassroots movement, programs are as diverse as the communities that build them.

What are the benefits of farm to school?
Farm to school programs are based on the premise that students will choose healthier foods, including more fruits and vegetables, if products are fresh, locally grown, and picked at the peak of their flavor and if those choices are reinforced with educational activities. Farm to School programs provide benefits to the entire community: children, farmers, food service staff, parents, and teachers.

  • The choice of healthier options in the cafeteria through farm to school meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables with an average increase of 0.99 to 1.3 servings per day, including at home.
  • Schools report a 3 to 16 percent increase in school meal participation when farm-fresh food is served through farm to school programs.
  • Farm to school programs open new markets for farmers and help expand their customer base by raising awareness about local food systems.
  • Farm to school programs are also known to increase school meal participation rates.

How can I start a farm to school program in my community?
Farm to school programs exist in all 50 states, so support and resources are available no matter where you are. And you don’t have to be a cafeteria manager or school board member to get involved – parents, teachers and even students have the power to start programs and make change happen! For tips and resources to help you get started, visit the National Farm to School Network‘s website, and read the “How to Start a Program” page.