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The forgotten organ in our bodies?

For the last 32 years Nature’s Farmacy has taken the lead in teaching the public the importance of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in keeping their animals healthy.  It hasn’t been easy since the veterinary and medical professionals have put very little importance on this part of our physical health other than to maybe suggest a little yogurt if your dog or you have diarrhea or take antibiotics.  It hasn’t been easy to promote the importance of protbiotics to people when their doctors often had no knowledge of such things and really no interest in evaluating the benefit it might bring to their patients.  UNTIL NOW.   Johnny-come-Lately companies jumping into the probiotic market are responding to the explosion of new research into the world of microbes that was previously a rather HO-HUM discussion.  That is until overuse of antibiotics has put us at risk from new resistant strains of pathogenic (bad) microbes that no longer respond to antibiotics that used to keep those in control.  Also the rise in chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma in children, obesity, breast cancer,  autoimmune disease, etc. has scientists looking for cures in new places.  One area is beneficial microbes.  We call them THE MIRACLES WITHIN US.  Because they are.  One day, according to scientists, we may soon replace some types of ANTIbiotics with PRObiotics and they will work better and safer.

Suddenly, the prospect of making money on a new wave of interest in getting people and animals using probiotics has us watching advertising on TV promoting probiotics for the first time EVER.   All the ads about yogurt or some discussing probiotic pills to make your gut healthier has people paying attention, and in the marketing world that is an opportunity to make some money.  All this is pushing companies to provide evidence that it is worth BUYING these new products which drives advertising and awareness.  But, as always, BUYER BEWARE of low quality and highly overpriced products that don’t do much to help you. We want to bring you up to date on what the new research is proving.  We are excited that science has started to catch up with the evidence and validates all we have learned and taught our customer over these many years  This research is in its infancy and we have a long way to go to understand all of it.   Before this research boom, we relied on an overwhelming preponderance of evidence we actually observed for years.

To clarify the importance of the micro flora that live in and on our bodies and those of our animals, this article is an explanation of the overall purpose of these microbes (bacteria and fungi) and the scope of the numbers of them that we host.   There are virtually millions of bacteria and fungi moving across your face as you read this. There are over a trillion in your mouth. These microbes multiply extremely fast, so fast in fact that you swallow trillions daily.  All healthy mammal bodies have 10 times more living, feeding microbes than they do of there own body cells.

Professor Gary Hufffnagle, from the University of Michigan’s Health System states ”It’s been estimated that there are 100 trillion microbes in the human body and 10 trillion cells, so we like to say we are a minority in our own body.”

These are our normal microflora.  Included in this normal microflora are the good microbes (beneficial bacteria and fungi) as well as other microbes (negative pathogens), which can harm us or harm our animals. The population of good microflora, assist in the control of the negative pathogens that are within us, as well as those attempting to invade. The contribution of these good microflora cannot be overstated. In fact, it is well documented that the good microflora contribute in many ways including,  but not limited to,  the manufacture of vitamins needed by the body to prevent cell mutation and even cancer.

Those of us that have been working with these beneficial species for over 30 years are finally getting overdue confirmation from the rest of the scientific and medical world. Recently Huffnagle published a book entitled “The Probiotic Revolution” Hardly a revolution to some of us who have been strenuously educating the masses on the inclusion of beneficial species for so long. Much recognition to the mass of microbes in the animal body as an independent functioning organ has recently been recognized. It thus has been labeled the FORGOTTEN ORGAN.

It has been verified that the average Great Dane for example has about 2 ½ pounds of microbes, more mass than that of the heart, kidneys and pancreas combined. This forgotten organ is thus labeled an organ because all those microbes have DNA and make enzymes and other chemical compounds. As an animal eats, it is therefore feeding all those microbes. (100 trillion) Because these microbes live right next to cells, they affect how the cells in the body respond.

Probiotics can include any live microorganism, which delivers a beneficial health effect when ingested. Microbes prefer acidic living conditions. This is why we refer to them as lactic acid utilizing bacteria. It is no wonder then that we find large populations of microbes in the stomach and intestines, an environment of harsh acidic conditions.

Scientists have long known the use of microbial cultures in the manufacturing of dairy products and certain pharmaceuticals. Through research and technological advances, we have learned that specific strains of microbes, when eaten, deliver specific Health benefits.

Recent research has clearly shown animals (including humans) eating specific strains of probiotics:
• Have fewer gastrointestinal (GI) and respiratory illnesses.
• Are less susceptible to and recover faster from infectious diseases.
• Are more resistant to and recover more rapidly from ulcerations.
• Maintain white blood cell counts in time of stress.
• Gain resistance to the viral gastroenteritis commonly referred to as “stomach flu”.
• Experience less severe colds.
• Reduced negative oral bacteria that cause bad breath and initiate tooth decay and gum disease.

Published microbial research in the past 10 years has been exponential. From only 60 plus studies from the 60’s thru the 90’s to over 1000 studies from 2002 to the present.

When choosing probiotic(microbial cultures) supplements it is imperative that you insist on products that not only list the genus but the species as well. For example, the genus Lactobacillus has over 20 species and many of them are simply of no benefit to the animal or human. Some species of Lactobacillus are necessary to make cheese or yogurt but have no measurable value in the mammals digestive system whereas Lactobacillus Acidophilus is held in high regard as to it’s importance in the utilization of nutrients. If the product lists, the genus but not the species just walk away.

In addition, they should clearly state and guarantee the number of colony forming units (one CFU is 1 billion microbes) – and the buyer be suspicious If the label just gives weight of bacteria in grams or milligrams. That information is irrelevant; you need to know how many are alive.

To maximize health in all animals we must insist on open labeling of the probiotics we consume. A minimal volume of 5 billion CFU per 20 pounds of bodyweight should be consumed daily by all animals including we humans. Labeling is still very uneven and those probiotics that don’t meet at least minimum criteria should be avoided. Knowing that research and development have still a long way to go, as scientists are daily learning more about the care and feeding of the “forgotten organ”.

“The largest proportion of the nervous system outside the brain is found in the gut,” Huffnagle says, which gives added meaning to the word “stomach ache.” “There are more transmitters made there than any other place in the body, and we’re realizing that bacteria can respond to these neurotransmitters. The gut may be a central sensor for the whole for the whole immune system.”

Huffangle’s lab found out, for example, that changing the type of microbes that live in the gut actually changes the way that the lungs respond to allergens.

In addition, they discovered that microbes are involved in the all- important anti-inflammatory process.  This is important now that inflammation is identified as part the disease process and cell damage leading to so many chronic diseases, including cancers such as colon and beneficial microbes are proven to control inflammation in the gut and to break down toxins to neutralize them.

Inflammation has been described by Robert Ebisch as “the immune system’s (often excessive) response to all kinds of biological and chemical triggers”. He adds, “ And can underline problems ranging from allergic reactions to heart disease, from digestive disorders to cancer”.

Scientists have uncovered that when microbse eat and digest different foodstuffs, they produce waste products, and these waste products are anti-inflammatory SIGNALS for the immune system to be more tolerant.

Research has further shown a direct correlation between undigested foodstuffs and the formation of carcinogens. Microbes are unsurpassed in their ability to breakdown and utilize these foodstuffs eliminating the formation of carcinogens.

There is also direct correlation between the changing of our eating habits and the diets of our animals and the rise of chronic illness. One reason is our unnecessary and often overuse of antibiotics that kill both beneficial species as well as the negative pathogens. Secondly, the diet of human’s and animals alike has added to chronic illness. We have stepped away from fiber rich and spice enriched diets. (Spices are rich in antioxidants.) Instead, we eat diets that are prepared, preserved and excessively refined foodstuffs. Remember it takes an animal 2 hours to digest raw food and 14 hours to digest many commercially prepared foods. (This is also true for dog and cat food.)

Beginning in the 1980’s, we have witnessed an alarming increase in chronic diseases – asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, as well as autoimmune diseases, cancer in animals and humans, especially breast cancers in younger women than seen previously. This has spurred interest in research in diet, environment, chemical exposures, etc., and this has opened the investigation into areas that now include the microflora in our bodies.  What they are seeing is exciting scientists to connect the dots between disease prevention and microbes and also enzymes.

If we repopulate, and nourish these Miracles Within Us, we can improve our health and the health of the animals we care for tremendously.  How you do that is the next discussion we will have.  How to choose a product that does that job correctly and effectively will be discussed in another article to be posted on this site soon.