Guest: Danny Urbinder
Guest Bio: He is a naturopath and a pharmaceutical educational manager. | BioCeuticals
Health Professional Radio
Katherine: Thanks for listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Katherine, and today I’m joined by Danny Urbinder. He’s a naturopath and the educational manager at BioCeuticals. Welcome to our show.
Danny Urbinder: Thank you.
Katherine: Today we’re talking about probiotics. Now, what is probiotics exactly?
Danny: Probiotics, quite simply, it’s an organism that can induce health basically. So, we typically think of bacteria as something that might cause an infection or some sort of a pathogenic process. So, a probiotic, by the other hand, is just a health-giving or a life-sustaining organism – typically a bacteria, but not always.
Katherine: Yes, okay. And maybe in the media we’ve heard “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria.” These probiotics – they’re in our system already, aren’t they?
Danny: Well …
Katherine: Or not really.
Danny: They are. No, I mean … when we’re in utero – so when we’re actually developing in our mother’s womb, we thought that our gut was sterile, but recently there have been studies to show that there is some bacteria that passes through the placenta into the baby’s gut. So, we start to get bacterial inoculation very early on in life, but I suppose that the major inoculation, if you like, or the major colonisation of bacteria occurs during the birth process.
We actually swallow biological compounds, mucus and other types of biological matter as we’re being born, and that’s loaded with bacteria, some which we would consider to be pathogenic, but they do serve a purpose. And others which are probiotic, and these are things like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus acidophilus. There’s a range of different species that we would expect to swallow and colonise. That process continues if you breastfeed as well. We know that breast milk is a rich source of probiotics.
Katherine: Okay. And can you tell us the difference – what is a probiotic and a prebiotic? Are they very similar or …?
Danny: No. A probiotic is the organism and the prebiotic could be considered the food that the probiotic likes to eat – and typically speaking it tends to be water-soluble fibre. So, if you think of it in terms of our diet, someone that has a diet that’s rich in water-soluble fibre – these are fruits and vegetables and certain whole grains – then that type of diet, which we know is good for us, also tends to be good for our probiotics. We tend to feed them, and they grow, and they tend to sort of colonise much better than if we were to have, perhaps, on the other hand, a simple sugar diet.
Katherine: Right. And these probiotics, how do we take them? Are they in food, like yoghurts, or can you tell us how we … what form they take when we take probiotics?
Danny: Well, if you’re thinking in terms of diet, we would have had probiotics way back when we were evolving – they would have actually existed just in our environment to some extent. So, if we were to eat certain vegetables and fruits, there’s bacteria on there, and they would be the bacteria that, if you allow them to sit in certain conditions, these bacteria would ferment these foods. So, for example, cabbage has a probiotic that naturally is found on the cabbage.
You allow that to ferment, in other words the bacteria start to consume the sugar in the cabbage, and you’ve got fermented cabbage, and suddenly you’ve got sauerkraut – which we know is good for our health. Same thing with yoghurt. And if you go to other cultures – in Korea it might be kimchi … So, all of these foods tend to be rich sources of probiotics, many of which we just don’t eat much these days. [laughs]
The other source of course is through supplements, and that way you can actually get a concentrated and therapeutic dose of a probiotic. And now, particularly over the last ten years, we’re learning that probiotics is not just necessary to maintain health, they actually have therapeutic value, and given at the right dose and choosing the right types of bacteria, you can achieve quite a good health benefit when treating certain conditions.
Katherine: Right. And you’re correct in that people probably aren’t eating enough fermented cabbage these days, so therefore they need to maybe supplement their diet.
Katherine: Research … as you said, probiotics started being more … used more commonly, like you said, in the last probably ten years. Maybe 20, 30 years ago it wasn’t really well known. And it’s been linked to have a lot of health benefits for a lot of things, such as … maybe we can talk a little bit about the link with, say, gestational diabetes for example.
Danny: Well, that’s an interesting one. The evidence for gestational diabetes I think is still in its very early stage. There certainly have been studies to show that probiotics can certainly improve insulin resistance in the third trimester of pregnancy, which is certainly an important factor when you’re looking at gestational diabetes. So, insulin resistance really just refers to the ability of insulin to do its job and get sugar out of the bloodstream and into our cells.
So, if that occurs, then certainly you’re at risk of raised blood sugar levels and gestational diabetes. So, there have been some studies to show that you do get an improved glucose response with probiotics. There has been a study that occurred in Britain, I think it was 2010, that showed that it did reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes when you took a certain lactobacillus [indecipherable 0:05:53] that we did and also lactus [sp].
And there’s also a trial now occurring in Brisbane, it’s called the Spring Trial, that’s actually looking at the possibility of probiotics reducing the incidence of gestational diabetes. So, it’s quite interesting, but it seems to have an effect on improving insulin sensitivity.
Katherine: And also it helps with a condition, lactational mastitis? I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it properly, but …
Danny: Mastitis, yeah.
Katherine: But that has to do with breastfeeding or something. Can you explain a bit about that? Is that right?
Danny: Well, mastitis is an infection or … and certainly it’s inflammation associated with an infection of the breast tissue, and it’s quite typically associated with breastfeeding. It’s been noted that up to a third of breastfeeding women can suffer from mastitis. I suppose historically, it was always considered that you were at risk because of an infection from the external environment. So, perhaps there was a bacteria that entered the breast tissue from the external environment.
What we now are starting to understand – and this is actually from studies that came out of the University of Madrid – is in fact mastitis can quite commonly be an issue associated with what we call dysbiosis, where breast tissue is not sterile. We know that it’s in fact colonised by a range of bacteria, both probiotic and to a lesser extent pathogenic bacteria.
It sits there in the background and, when you have dysbiosis, in other words you might have a loss of these probiotic bacteria, then you’re at a certain risk of an outgrowth, an outcrop of perhaps some infectious bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus is probably the most typical. So, when you supplement with certain bacteria, in women that have mastitis, this Madrid group actually found that it was actually a very successful way of actually treating infections of mastitis in lactating women.
So, they’re quite specific species. So, there is lactobacillus fermentum, salivarius and gaslori [sp], and with these particular species of bacteria they was actually found that it was more successful than treating with antibiotics.
Katherine: Right. And also, another condition that it helps with, which I think is quite exciting and you’d never make this link otherwise, but eczema and dermatitis. Who knew that [indecipherable 0:08:21] probiotics it could show up, but I guess it makes sense for your skin.
Danny: Well, it’s not … it’s certainly through your skin but it’s not quite how it works with eczema. So, we mentioned that when babies are born they swallow these probiotics and their gut is inoculated. What also happens in the gut is that about 80% of our innate immune system actually resides in the gut and our immune system actually takes cues from the types of bacteria that actually colonise our gut. So, if we have, I suppose an infection, our immune system would gauge what’s happening inside our gut and would rally a response that’s appropriate to that infection.
So, if it was a nasty infection we would actually have an inflammatory response as a way of overcoming that infection. But if you had an environment that was rich in probiotics and in certainly I suppose health-giving bacteria, our immune system would actually scan for that. It would relay that information back to our wider immune system – and when I say ‘wider,’ systemically, throughout our whole body – that there’s no need to up-regulate inflammation. There’s no need to have an inflamed response.
That inflammatory response can also express itself via the skin as well. So, we know that … so I suppose children that miss out on their opportunity to have probiotics during birth, they might miss out on a natural childbirth, they might have been born by caesarean or they’re not breastfed and they miss out on their opportunity to get probiotics via breast milk – that they are at a greater risk of eczema. So, atopic dermatitis and certainly other sort of allergic condition, and certainly asthma as well, as a result of missing out on these bacteria.
And it’s really is because we’re starting to initiate an inflammatory response that ends up being quite systemic.
Katherine: Interesting that you even mention such a condition like asthma as well, from not having enough probiotics as an infant.
Danny: Yes. Well, it seems to be a little bit of a progression. So, if you do have a history of atopy in the family, where you start with eczema, quite often that actually does progress quite naturally to asthma anyway. A lot of children that [indecipherable 0:10:33] from eczema get asthma later on.
Katherine: I see. A quick question for you – can you ever have too many probiotics?
Danny: I think it would be pretty hard to do that. So, those … [laughter] I mean look, BioCeuticals is a company that makes really high-dose probiotics. We do so because we know that it achieves therapeutic value. But while we might provide dosage in the realms of 45 billion organisms per capsule, we’re well aware that these will quite rapidly multiply into the trillions, which is exactly what you want them to do. So, we have trillions and trillions of bacteria in our gut.
If you’re going to use these probiotics therapeutically to overcome a dysbiotic state, then the more the better. I think it’s quite hard to overdose on probiotics.
Katherine: [laughs] And these pills that you’re talking about, these vitamins from BioCeuticals, can children take them as well?
Danny: In fact we’ve got some children-specific probiotics. It gets a little bit more, I suppose, nuanced than just giving a general probiotic. Depending on what stage of life you’re at will actually determine what types of probiotics you need, particularly in regards to your immune system. Your immune system doesn’t just appear when you’re born and know what to do. It needs to develop, and it develops with certain cues, and the cues that it develops with start with what we call baby strains of bacteria.
These are typically [indecipherable 0:11:59] strains of bacteria that I suppose live in an environment that’s rich in breast milk. So, the nutrients that you find in breast milk tend to feed these strains of bacteria, which is exactly what a baby needs to prime their immune system. So, that might actually be something that you would consider giving children if they suffer from allergies or eczema or hay fever. So, we’ve got a product called BabyBiotic that will achieve that.
Katherine: I see. Well, thanks for your time and thanks for talking to us about all things probiotic, Danny.
Danny: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.