Most people would be surprised to know that a healthy individual has over 100 trillion microorganisms from some 400 different species that flourish in their intestinal tract. These bacteria (often known as the good bacteria) are essential for digestion and absorption as well as the production of significant amounts of B vitamins and enzymes. Almost as important, they prevent bad bacteria from getting established which could cause illness and disease.

Unfortunately, the levels of these good bacteria decline with age. Some of the most common reasons for this decline are:

-Over time, the colonies of friendly bacteria just naturally age and lose their vitality.

- The use of Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Motrin etc are very destructive to these bacteria.

- Chlorine in drinking water not only kills bad bacteria like it is designed to do but kills the good bacteria as well. (It is also said that taking one shower in hot chlorinated water is the same as drinking 5-6 glasses of chlorinated water).

-The use of prescription antibiotics is a fast way of destroying good bacteria in your GI tract. (Most people have experienced the turmoil that your digestion goes through after taking antibiotics) Much more common is the consumption of meat products that are loaded with antibiotics (40% of antibiotics produced in this country are used in the meat industry). In fact, antibiotics have been so widely used in this country that they are even turning up in our water reservoirs.


--Lowered cholesterol

--Inhibition of cancer

--Protection against food poisoning

--Protection against stomach ulcers

--Enhanced immunity

--Protection against candida overgrowth and vaginal yeast infections

--Prevention and correction of Constipation and Diarrhea, Ileitis and Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and whole range of other digestive tract dysfunctions

--Improvement in the health and appearance of the skin In short it is difficult to heal from any disease process without a healthy digestive tract and probiotics are an essential part of this system.


I highly recommend taking a good probiotic formula periodically and especially after taking any antibiotics. There are many beneficial bacteria but two are preeminent when looking for a supplement. 1) L. acidophilus (which resides primarily in the small intestine) There are three recognized super strains of acidophilus: DDS, NAS, and BT1386. You will find DDS and NAS in most formulas but BT1386 is even better when you can find it as it is the only one of these three that can utilize glycogen (stored sugar) to survive and flourish. This helps it survive in the urinary tract where it produces lactic acid to inhibit the growth of pathogens. This is particularly important to women. 2) Bifidobacteria( which resides mostly in the large intestine) Many researchers believe that a lack of Bifidobacteria plays a major role in many chronic degenerative diseases. Their major benefits are: 1) consume old fecal matter 2) have the ability to remove cancer-forming elements, or the enzymes which lead to their formation; 3) are substantial producers of a range of important B vitamins. There are many others but I won't go into them here.

Another key issue in picking a formula is how fresh it is at the time of purchase. The number of live bacteria at the time of production is listed on the bottle but the die off rate is astounding. I think it is best to buy a liquid in the refrigerator section of your health food store unless you feel confident the manufacturer has put enough in a capsule to compensate for the die off rate.

A lot of people think eating yogurt will replace good bacteria. Unfortunately most yogurt is made with L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus which are not key beneficial bacteria. Some companies put a little acidophilus in it so they can put it on the label but even more important is the fact that a lot of commercial yogurts are pasteurized after the culture is added for the purpose of increasing the shelf life. This destroys any benefit inherent in the yogurt.

One of the best solutions is to make your own yogurt. (It is a very simple process if you have a good culture to start with.) Other fermented foods such as: sauerkraut, miso, Kefir, pickles, olives etc are great ways to enhance your digestive flora. Unfortunately a lot of the commercially prepared fermented foods are so processed that there are no significant live cultures left. It is ideal if you can make your own or buy things from a deli that make them fresh on a regular basis.

One final word on probiotics, start slowly when first taking them. They can cause a die off of bad bacteria which can cause gas, bloating, and general intestinal agitation. Slowly increase until you reach the desired dosage for your supplement.

I want to touch on another subject that is closely related to probiotics and that is Enzymes. The good bacteria in your digestive tract produce some digestive enzymes but the bulk of them come from the food you eat and from your pancreas. When you eat good fresh raw fruits and vegetables you get, along with all the nutrients and antioxidants, a host of natural enzymes that are essential in the digestive process of that food. The way our bodies were designed to work is that these enzymes will break down and pre-digest 75% of this food in the stomach. After about 45minutes your stomach acid kicks in and breaks down the remainder before it sends it into the small intestine. Once in the small intestine the acid is neutralized and the pancreas secretes a host of digestive enzymes to further breakdown food molecules for absorption into the blood.

Two things happen when you do not get these enzymes with your food. One, your stomach tends to over produce acid (which can cause indigestion and heart burn) and two, your pancreas has to drastically increase its enzyme production to make up for the lack of enzymes in your diet. This puts a huge strain on the endocrine system.

Recent studies have shown that 100% of Americans have an enlarged pancreas by the age of 40. Why are we not getting these enzymes in our food? It is mostly due to the lack of fresh raw foods. Cooking anything over 120 degrees essentially destroys all enzymes! Some of you may have heard of the famous experiment by Dr FM Pottenger (known as the Pottenger cats). Dr Pottenger took two groups of cats and fed one group raw food and the other group cooked food (which would be totally devoid of natural enzymes). The group on the raw diet thrived and were extremely healthy. The group on cooked diet had chronic health issues and by the third generation, could not reproduce.

We obviously cannot live on a totally raw diet in today's world, but it gives you some idea of how important it is to supplement your diet with digestive enzymes. Some suggest taking them with every meal, especially if you have digestive problems. In addition to breaking down food in the GI tract, enzymes are also secreted into the blood stream. Large protein molecules are often absorbed into the blood without being totally digested. These molecules are mistaken by the body as a foreign invader and are attacked by antibodies which initiate an immune response or what the person feels as an allergic response. Digestive enzymes help break the complexes down so that they can be flushed out by the kidneys. Taking supplemental enzymes can be very helpful for people who suffer from food allergies.


It is best of course if you can include at least some organic fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, but if you struggle with this or have digestive problems, supplements can be a huge benefit. Most people will benefit from any good vegetarian-based enzyme supplement. I would look for one that contains several protein digesters such as Protease and Papain, Amaylase (for digestion of carbohydrates), Lipase and Bromelain (for digestion of fats), Cellulase (for breaking down fiber cellulose into smaller units), and Lactase for dairy. You will want to take these with your meal. (You only need to eat one with most formulas). I think it is also important to take one before bed a couple times /week. These enzymes will end up in the blood if not needed in the GI tract and will help with protein complexes that are common in food allergies.



Dr. Roy Murrell, DC 200 NE 20th Avenue, Suite 140 Portland Oregon 97232 - disclaimer - 971-312-9497

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