Treatment for GERD, Acid Stomach, Chronic Fatigue, Frequent Infections: Probiotics and Other Microbes

In my previous post, I discussed the various conditions, such as GERD, acid stomach, bloating, food allergies, chronic fatigue, and frequent infections, that occur due to imbalanced or insufficient microflora. After proper diagnosis, the treatment for these conditions is repopulating with probiotics. In this post, I will cover What Are Probiotics, Where Should They Be and In What Amounts, What They Do and How Do You Get Them.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that reside in your small and large intestine (aka, your gut). There are different types of probiotics, which are referred to as different strains. Like humans, strains have first and last names. The first name of strains is the genus or family it belongs to. The last name is its species. For instance, the name of the most well known strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is also called by its abbreviated name, L. acidophilus. Besides the acidophilus species, other species of Lactobacilli are L. rhamnosus, L. casei, L. bulgaricus, and L. plantarum.

Bifidobacteria is another family of probiotics. Other specias of this family are B. longum, B. breve, and B. infantis.

Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are the most common beneficial bacteria. There is also a strain of yeast that is beneficial for maintaining the health of your gut. This strain is called Saccharomyces boulardii. Its use is becoming more popular because it is a good substitute in instances where it is not advisable to use the Lactobacillus strain.

Besides the various bacterial and yeast strains, there are enormous quantities and a great diversity of microbes that should reside in a healthy GI tract. Some of these strains, such as Streptococci, Enterobacteria, Staphylococci, Clostridia and Fusobacteria, could cause serious illness if they predominate in various parts of the gut. However, when they remain in balanced amounts they are very beneficial and necessary for good health, and even needed for keeping you alive.

Where Should They Be and In What Amounts?

A healthy digestive system contains literally trillions of bacteria and yeast strains throughout the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. The total amount of these microscopic organisms weighs about 6 pounds total.

Your esophagus and stomach should have primarily Lactobacilli in quantities of 1000’s to 100,000’s per gram of intestinal lining. In your small intestines, the Lactobacilli, Streptococci, Enterobacteria and Bacteroides strains should reside in increasing amounts from the beginning of your small intestine to the end. By the end of your small intestine, in the ileum, there should be anywhere between 1000’s to 1,000,000,000,000’s (trillions) per gram of intestinal lining of these microbes. Your large intestine should contain huge quantities of multiple bacterial and yeast strains. Strains such as Staphylococci, Klebsiella, Streptococci, Pseudomonas and Salmonella should be present in a healthy large intestine, in proper quantities and proportions. The quantity of microbes in the small intestines is between 10,000,000,000 to 1,000,000,000,000 per gram of intestinal lining.

Dysbiosis, the disturbance of gut microflora, is a serious condition when we consider what the microflora do.

What They Do?

  • protect the intestinal lining from injury
  • maintain the integrity, growth and repair of the intestinal cells (epithelium)
  • stimulate the secretion of antimicrobials toward harmful pathogens
  • contribute to the promote the secretion of secretory IgA, an important immune system immunoglobulin
  • help in making vitamins K, B12, biotin, folic acid and vitamin B5
  • compete with potential pathogens for space and resources
  • digestion of plant/vegetable fibers that would otherwise not be digestible by the host (your body)
  • absorption of simple sugars and triglycerides
  • maintain the tight junctions of the intestines to prevent a “leaky gut” lining
  • transform steroid hormones, drugs and carcinogens into less harmful forms

How Do You Get Them?

  1. Through Natural Childbirth and Breastfeeding – When a newborn comes through the birth canal the baby gets their initial inoculation with some of these. While breastfeeding, the child gets more from their mother. Therefore, children that are born by c-section or not breastfed are severely deficient in the amounts of beneficial microbes. Consequently, they are far more susceptible to recurrent infections and many other associated problems throughout their lives. Therefore, it is imperative to begin inoculating the newborn or infant with certain strains of supplemental probiotics if they were born via c-section or not breastfed. A Certified Clinical Nutritionist or Functional Medicine doctor should be consulted for the proper strains and amounts for the child. This is very important because giving a newborn or toddler the wrong strains and/or wrong concentrations could cause more problems than giving them none at all.
  2. Through Environmental Exposure and Certain Foods – As a child grows, they are exposed to increased microbes through the environment and foods. Some foods help the beneficial microbes grow in balanced concentrations. Therefore, these foods are termed “prebiotics”. The foods that have prebiotic properties are:
    • onions
    • garlic
    • Jerusalem artichokes
    • chicory
    • legumes
    • flaxseeds
    • oatmeal
    • tomatoes
    • spinach
    • bananas
    • leeks
    • barley
    • wheat

    It is important to mention that not just one food should be repetitively used to increase the beneficial microflora, but a variety of foods must be introduced in varying quantities to avoid predisposition to food allergies. For instance, many children are overfed processed wheat products. This predisposes to the large number of people with wheat/gluten intolerances, thus negating any prebiotic effect.

    The foods that actually contain many of the beneficial probiotic strains are:
    • yogurt
    • kefir
    • kombucha tea
    • fermented cabbage
    • miso soup
  3. Through Supplemental Probiotics – In certain instances, taking supplemental mixed-strain probiotics in dosages of 5, 10, 20, or even more than 50 billion organisms each day is necessary to inoculate or repopulate the GI tract. It is absolutely necessary to use supplemental probiotics, in specific strains, in the following cases:
    • a child born by c-section
    • a newborn breastfed for less than 1 year
    • during and after any antibiotic use, either applied topically, taken orally or used through any other route
    • during and after any corticosteroid use, either applied topically, inhaled, injected or taken orally
    • in most cases of childhood diarrhea
    • in many cases of adult constipation and diarrhea
    • whenever prescription or over-the-counter antacid medications are used
    • in most cases where there are symptoms of acid reflux or GERD
    • in the elderly taking multiple prescription medications

Under these conditions, it is best to check with a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Functional Medicine doctor, or other knowledgeable health practitioner for the proper strains, dosage and duration of use.