August 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Health Blog, Nutrients For Life

The gut flora in the average human digestive system is comprised of more than 400 species and weighs up to 3 kg. This represents an enormous number of bacteria. It is estimated that the human body is composed of 100 trillion cells, but we are outnumbered by at least 10 to 1 by our gut flora! Fortunately, this enormous “zoo” of microflora can be kept in balance by taking supplemental beneficial bacteria, or probiotics.

Probiotics are defined as nonpathogenic micro-organisms, which, when ingested, exert a positive influence on the health or physiology of the host. These beneficial or “friendly” bacteria are known as probiotics (pro + bios = “for life”). Their mechanisms of action and effects have been studied extensively, with substantial scientific evidence available describing the benefits and safety of these “friendly bugs”. The applications studied include:

  • Prevention or treatment of antibiotic-associated disorders, such as diarrhoea and thrush.
  • Prevention or treatment of gastroenteritis and pathogen-induced diarrhoea.
  • Prevention or treatment of intestinal infections and colonisation by pathogenic bacteria (including Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile).
  • Management of digestive disturbances such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Prevention or treatment of allergies (especially atopic eczema) and/or food sensitivities.
  • Prevention of carcinogenic changes in the colon.
  • Prevention or treatment of urogenital infections.
  • Reducing the risk of premature birth.
  • Management of cardiovascular risk factors.1

High quality probiotic therapy can restore balance if digestive microflora becomes disturbed. Many factors can contribute to an imbalance in gut ecology, often referred to as dysbiosis. These factors increase the need for therapeutic probiotic supplementation:

  • Antibiotic therapy.
  • Use of specific drugs such as antacids and gastric acid inhibitors.
  • Effects of stress.
  • A diet high in fat and low in fibre.
  • Diarrhoea and other infectious digestive upsets.

Not all probiotics are the same – their actions and health benefits differ according to genus, species, and strain. While all probiotics are considered safe and friendly in a broad sense, not all probiotics possess enough health benefits to be considered therapeutic. The best therapeutic strains recommended include the following:

Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM (North Carolina Food Microbiology) strain is one of the most comprehensively studied, beneficial probiotics. This specific strain has been shown to:

  • Maintain and restore the healthy microflora in the digestive system.
  • Support healthy digestive function following the use of antibiotics.
  • Promote normal vaginal flora following use of antibiotics or oral contraceptives.
  • Maintain general wellbeing and healthy digestive function.
  • Protect the intestinal lining from increased permeability by supporting cell growth.
  • Provide lactase activity, which facilitates the digestion of lactose (milk sugar).
  • Vitamin and short chain fatty acid synthesis and nutrient absorption.
  • Support normal, healthy immunity in children.2

Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG®) is a human probiotic strain that has been extensively studied and demonstrated to:

  • Decrease the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.3,4
  • Balance gut flora, thereby decreasing the severity and duration of acute diarrhoea.5
  • Reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections in travellers.6
  • Assist in preventing early atopic disease, particularly atopic dermatitis, in children at high risk.7

Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 has been demonstrated in human trials to significantly enhance cellular immunity by increasing:

  • Phagocytic activity. 8,9
  • Natural killer cell activity. 8

Lactobacillus plantarum 299v is another very useful probiotic, which has a range of actions, including:

  • Reduction of mucosal inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.10
  • Proven clinical effectiveness in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).11
  • Reduction of fibrinogen, interleukin-6 and LDL cholesterol, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.12

Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 is a therapeutic strain of Bifidobacterium that is both acid and bile resistant. Bifidobacteria are the predominant bacteria in the large intestine. Strain B. lactis Bi-07 has been shown to:

  • Effectively restore microbial balance after antibiotic use.
  • Reduce the incidence of intestinal candidiasis.
  • Inhibit growth of the pathogens Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Have an immune modulating effect.13

Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 has been shown to exert specific immune enhancing activity in both animal and human studies. These effects include:

  • Enhanced phagocytosis.14,15,16
  • Enhanced tumour killing activity.14,15
  • Increased cytokine secreting capacity.16

Saccharomyces boulardii is a nonpathogenic yeast that transiently colonises the gut, where it has exhibited the following activity:

  • A direct antagonistic effect against bacterial pathogens and Candida albicans.
  • Support of commensal flora to suppress pathogens (indirect antagonism).
  • Increased gut mucosal chloride transport, thereby increasing chloride resorption to exert a direct antidiarrhoeal effect.
  • The ability to reduce the enterotoxic effects of Clostridium difficile toxin A.17

The “dose” of probiotics relates to the number of live organisms in a capsule or in a serve of powdered probiotics. For optimal therapeutic results, ensure the probiotics you take contain a scientifically validated dose of live organisms. A sub-therapeutic dose will not give you the clinical results you need. Interestingly, dose also matters because different numbers of probiotics have been shown to have different therapeutic
effects. For example:

  • LGG® given at a dose of 2 billion organisms per day has been shown to help maintain healthy digestive function; but
  • LGG® given at a dose of 20 billion organisms per day is effective for preventing eczema.

To ensure optimal therapeutic activity and ongoing colonisation of the bowel by these strains of “good” bacteria, the number of live organisms per dose needs to be guaranteed through to the expiry date. To certify that the number of live organisms in a probiotic supplement stays at a therapeutic level, it is best if the probiotic is tested in “real time” at different stages in the product’s lifespan. That is, ensure that the probiotic supplements you purchase have been analysed by microbiologists at regular intervals over a period of months and that the number of live organisms has been quantified at each stage of testing.

For guidance on the best probiotic for your body and accurate treatment advice, please make an appointment to discuss your individual health requirements.


Yours In Great Health,

Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons), MATMS, MNHAA, MHATO

Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner, Lecturer, Researcher 

Earth Medicine TM


Email: [email protected]


Helping you achieve optimal wellness, hormonal balance and disease prevention with personalised, professional naturopathic health care, clinical pathology testing and high-quality herbal medicines and supplements 

Sar Rooney is a Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner specialising in Anxiety and Depression |Women’s Health| Hormonal Imbalances | Thyroid Disorders | Digestive Health | Genetic Polymorphisms (MTHFR/Pyroluria) | Nutritional Medicine | Optimal Wellness & Disease Prevention 

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Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. Please note: I am not a medical practitioner.


1 Marteau PR. Probiotics in clinical conditions. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2002 Jun;22(3):255-73.
2 ME Sanders and TR Klaenhammer. The scientifi c basis of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM functionality as a probiotic J. Dairy Sci. 2001;84:319–33.
3 Vanderhoof JA, Whitney DB, Antonson DL, Hanner TL, Lupo JV, Young RJ. Lactobacillus GG in the prevention of
antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children. J Pediatr 1999;135(5):564-8.
4 Arvola T, Laiho K, Torkkeli S, Mykkanen H, Salminen S, Maunula L, Isolauri E, Prophylactic Lactobacillus GG
reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children with respiratory infections: a randomized study. Pediatrics 1999
5 Canai, RB, Cirillo P, Terrin G, Cesarano L, Spagnuolo MI, De Vincenzo A, Albano F, Passariello A, De Marco G,
Manguso F, Guarino A. Probiotics for treatment of acute diarrhoea in children:randomized clinical trial of fi ve different preparations. BMJ 2007;335(7615):340.
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Travel Med 1997;1:41-43.
7 Kalliomaki M, Salminen S, Arvilommi H, Kero P, Koskinen P, Isolauri E. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2001;357(9262):1076-9.
8 Sheih YH, Chiang BL, Wang LH, Liao CK, Gill HS. Systemic immunity-enhancing effects in healthy subjects following dietary consumption of lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001. J Am Coll Nutr 2001:20(2);149-156.
9 Gill HS and Rutherfurd KJ. Probiotic supplementation to enhance natural immunity in the elderly: effects of a newly
characterised immunostimulatory strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 (DR20™) on leucocyte phagocytosis. Nutr
Res 2001:21;183–189.
10 Mao Y, et al. Intestinal immune response to oral adminstration of Lactobacillus reuteri R2LC, Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 9843, pectin and oatbase on Methotrexate induced enterocolitis in rats. Micro Eco Health & Dis 1996;9:261-270.
11 Barbara G, De Giorgio R, Stanghellini V, Cremon C, Salvioli B, Corinaldesi R. New pathophysiological mechanisms in irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Jul;20 Suppl 2:1-9.
12 Bukowska Het al. Signifi cant decrease in fi brinogen and LDL-cholesterol levels upon supplementation of diet with
Lactobacillus plantarum in subjects with moderately elevated cholesterol. Artherosclerosis 1998;137:437-8.
13 Manufacturers Technical Memorandum. Bifi dobacterium lactis Bi-07. 2008.
14 Chiang BL, Sheih YH, Wang LH, Liao CK, Gill HS. Enhancing immunity by dietary consumption of a probiotic lactic acid bacterium (Bifi dobacterium lactis HN019): optimisation and defi nition of cellular immune responses. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000: 54; 849-855.
15 Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML and Gopal PK. Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifi dobacterium lactis HN019. Am J Clin Nutr 2001:74; 833–839.
16 Arunachalam K, Gill HS and Chandra RK. Enhancement of natural immune function by dietary consumption of
Bifi dobacterium lactis (HN019). Eur J Clin Nutr 2000:54;263-267.
17 Jahn HU, Ulrich R, Schneider T, Liehr RM, Schieferdecker HL, Holst H, Zeitz M. Immunological and trophical effects of Saccharomyces boulardii on the small intestine in healthy human volunteers. Digestion 1996; 57(2); 95-104.
18 Cross ML. Microbes versus microbes: immune signals by probiotic lactobacilli and their role in protection against
microbial pathogens.


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  1. jake says:

    excelent post, keep it coming…