Why do probotics alleviate my stomach pain?
I have like a chronic stabbing pain in my lower left abdomen. It feels like something in there is sore or inflamed perhaps. This woman told me one time to take a probiotic for it, so I did. For some reason this pain seems to go away as long as I'm taking a probiotic everyday. I took it every day for over a year, but then I stopped. And then the pain came back. Could someone explain to me what this is all about? I don't know anybody else that has a pain in their gut like this that has to take probiotics to keep it at bay. Why do I have to?
I have also noticed that there are several probiotics on the market and some of them are different. Some only have acidophilus while others have a couple or even several strains of bacteria. How do you know what you need? How do you choose?
Originally Posted by kurt28
There are a great many different possible causes of intestinal or bowel pain;
For example, insufficient or excessive stomach acidity, pyloric sphinter dysfunction, localised intestinal tissue damage, nematode or other form of parasite, cancer, immune dysfunction, intestinal obstruction, biliary obstruction, pancreatic obstruction, the presence of certain toxins like heavy metals (since these can directly disrupt normal immune function and disrupt liver function thus rendering certain ordinary food chemicals irritating to the digestive and immune systems), pathogenic bacterial infection or overgrowth in the mouth/teeth/gums/stomach/intestine etc. (do not underestimate how much impact oral infections or amalgams can have on the health of the digestive and vascular systems), but in your case, since you respond so favourably to probiotic supplementation, there is a reasonable chance that you may, perhaps, have nothing more than a relatively uncomplicated case of intestinal dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance). It would be a mistake to simply assume this to be the case, but, for the purposes of this discussion, it is a reasonable hypothesis, and thus one at least worth considering. You should still see a doctor skilled in this area, and, perhaps, obtain private lab testing of a stool sample (e.g. a comprehensive digestive stool analysis - 'CDSA', by a lab such as Metametrix, Genova Diagnostics, Great Smokies Lab, etc.). However, just for the sake of this discussion, let's continue with the topic of intestinal dysbiosis..
Pathogenic bacteria can excrete substances that irritate the delicate lining of the small intestine, leading to inflammation (which can eventually become systemic, as is sometimes the case with arthritis patients whose longterm gut inflammation may have led to increased permeability of the gut, permitting inappropriate food particles to enter the bloodstream, which the immune system perceives as pathogens, and generates an inflammatory response to). Even for non arthritis patients, intestinal dysbiosis may cause localised intestinal pain, and even food sensitivities (food sensitivities can arise if certain foods are particularly enjoyed by the pathogenic bacteria, and thus they may thrive on these foods and excrete more irritating substances, if the patient eats such foods favourable to them. Another way in which food sensitivities may arise is if the immune system eventually associates certain foods with increased pathogenic excretia and thus reacts to the ingestion of the food itself. And there are yet other possible eventualities, but you get the general idea...).
Anyway, a reasonable question to ask is how might the possible dysbiosis in your small intestine have arisen in the first place? Well, without going into too much detail, this could have arisen, for example, if you have been on a course of antibiotics at some point in the past, or if your immune system is being supressed (as can happen with oral infections or heavy metal intoxication), or if you have experienced food poisoning at some point in the past.
Antibiotics can kill not only illness-causing bacteria, but also health-promoting bacteria which normally reside in the intestines of a healthy individual, operating in a symbiotic manner with their host. When antibiotics are consumed, then, the intestines can be rendered relatively sterile during the course of treatment, and when the course if finished, there will be a race by numerous different bacteria, both good and bad, to recolonise the intestinal 'territory'. There are many pathogenic bacteria which are opportunistic in their behaviour. If they should happen to multiply faster than health-promoting bacteria (which, in a healthy individual, would defend their host - i.e. you - against pathogenic bacteria), then the intestines may be predominantly colonised by pathogenic bacteria. Thus, a previously healthy person can contiue their life experiencing intestinal pain because of the propensity for such bacteria to produce toxic and/or irritating substances which lead to inflammation and spasms of the intestinal tissues.
Supplementing with a daily probiotic can tip the balance just enough to keep pathogenic bacteria from entirely having things their own way.
But in order to actually overcome such an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, you need to bring out the big guns. For some pathogens, this may require short-to-medium-term use of potent antipathogenic herbs (which I shall refrain from listing, since they should really only be used under the guidance and expertise of a qualified herbalist, naturopathic practitioner, or functional medicine specialist) or (if you prefer to use conventional medicine) a further course of appropriate antibiotics. In some cases, however, one can redress the balance simply by making home-made fermented foods and consuming them daily, perhaps along with a decent high-potency probiotic. The latter approach is something one can attempt very safely without professional guidance (though I would still urge you to seek formal diagnosis rather than simply proceeding under the assumption that you only have a simple case of intestinal dysbiosis; if it's something more serious then you need to get that identified and treated by a professional doctor/practitioner).
The above cautions aside, if you wish to attempt to resolve a simple case of intestinal dybiosis with the use of fermented foods, you might ask why you can't skip these and just use a probiotic. The truth is that that is not impossible, but it's rather unlikely that a person would experience lasting success with just using commercial probiotics, because even the expensive ones are of relatively limited potency, for 2 main reasons:
1) commercial probiotics have bacterial counts in the tens of bilions - in contrast, home-fermented foods have trillions per mouthful
2) home-fermented foods such as sauerkraut are also full of lactic acid - this lactic acid performs an additional function of favourably altering the pH of your intestines, to create an environment that promotes the proliferation of health-promoting bacteria rather than pathogenic bacteria. You don't get this advantage (at least not directly) with commercial probiotics, although any health-promoting bacteria will themselves exert some useful influence upon the pH of the environment in which they seek to establish themselves.
I must stress that when I speak of fermented foods, I absolutely do mean home-fermented, not commercially-fermented. Commercially-fermented foods are often bastardised (pardon the term, but it's accurate) with distilled vinegars, and to add further insult, they are invariably pasteurised. Pasteurising fermented foods kills the very bacteria which would be useful in treating dysbiosis and promoting health in general. If you'd like to learn how to make sauerkraut or kefir at home, there are loads of websites and youtube videos showing you how, and there's an informative thread to get you up to speed on some of the factors to consider, here on RFT:
Last edited by Arky; 03-20-2013 at 03:05 PM.
(Cont. from above)
You need to consume sufficient fermented foods to overwhelm any pathogenic bacteria in your digestive system. Only then will pathogenic bacteria be unable to 'bounce-back' each time you stop supplementing with probiotics (and bear in mind that probiotics will only bring lasting benefit in parallel with fermented foods, for the reasons already discussed above. Once fermented foods have restored intestinal balance, probiotic supplements will have a favourable intestinal environment in which they can finally manage to gain a beneficial foothold. It is possible to redress many cases of intestinal dysbiosis simply using fermented foods, so it is the probiotic supplements that are the optional part of the equation, not the other way around). However, should you wish to include probiotics in your efforts, a particularly good one is 'Ohhira's' - it's not cheap but it does work well. Some people also do well on Homeostatic Soil Organisms, such as Garden of Life's 'Primal Defense', but use of HSOs is contentious (e.g. see here: http://tinyurl.com/brdotvw), so many prefer to stick to conventional probiotics such as 'Ohhira's'. Should you feel inclined, there is nothing to stop you using fermented foods and probiotic supplements, but, above all else, fermented foods are the cornerstone of this kind of approach to redressing intestinal dysbiosis. Many people have experienced great success, and remember that we human beings envolved upon a diet that included fermented foods. We should consme them several times a week, for our entire lifetime. They are largely absent from the modern diet and we use antibiotics these days, too, so it's a double-blow to the health of the human digestive system. And the immune system takes an enormous hit if your digestive bacterial ecology is out of balance, too. Please don't underestimate how very far-reaching intestinal dysbiosis can become.
Lastly, please consider your dietary zinc and magnesium intake. Insufficient zinc intake can impede the function of the parietal cells in your stomach. Without going into too much detail about the various effects, one is that less acid may be secreted. Less acid means less efficient digestion of certain foods, and this can lead to larger-than-optimal food particles reaching the lower intestine and bowel, and these can potentially trigger an immune response, in the form of inflammation of the intestinal tissues. Additionally, good dietary zinc intake is essential for correct function of the immune system, generally, so if the immune system is to be modulated appropriately, and if it is to be capable of fighting pathogenic bacteria, it will certainly require adequate presence of zinc in the body. Options for dietary zinc include seeds of pumpkin, sunflower, pecan etc., but if you find you have a serious shortfall of zinc then these might not prove sufficient to redress the balance. There are supplemental forms, such as zinc picolinate, citrate etc., but, if there is a clinical urgency to ensure maximum absorbability, there are non-vegetarian options with very high levels of highly-absorbable zinc (his is a vegan board, though, so I'll refrain from detailing them here). Note that the pancreas functions in the dual capacities of both an endocrine and an exocrine organ. Minerals such as zinc and magnesium are vital for it's correct operation. Even people on a raw foods diet, full of nutritious foods, can often unwittingly be deficient in zinc and magnesium, particularly if they have very active, stressful (or amorous!) lives. Seriously, it's something worth checking, and also take 5-10 minutes to educate yourself on how much zinc and magnesium content your daily foods, raw or otherwise, actually contain. It may surprise you how little of these minerals is present in many foods we generally consider to be highly-nutritious:
If you need any more pointers or elaboration on anything I've discussed, by all means ask, but, without wishing to sound like a broken record, please get yourself properly diagnosed by a qualified practitioner if at all possible. I am not a doctor; just someone with an intimate understanding of these matters, on account of having personally experienced some of them myself.
Hope you get better soon. I know what chronic intestinal and bowel pain is like. I've had more than my fair share over the preceding few years, so you have my sympathy!
Last edited by Arky; 03-20-2013 at 03:26 PM.
Y O U ------ D A ------- M A N !!!!!!!!!!!!
You are amazingly helpful.
My short much, less articulate answer that I think would be the simplest would be to do the fermented foods and then see how you feel -without the probiotics. Then no matter how you feel, good or bad, do the Genova Diagnostics' Digestive Stool Analysis. This is an amazing test that can tell you all kinds of things about your digestion, whether you have parasites or not, etc.
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highest weight ever 147 lbs.
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Am I to take it that you've walked a similar path to me, in terms of seeking CDSA etc.?
Whilst they're not absolutely foolproof (they can be woefully hit-or-miss with identifying certain parasites, for example, something I can personally attest to, unfortunately, what with this aspect of them being an art/science which is still in its infancy), they can nonetheless be amazingly informative in regard to a wide spectrum of digestive functions, I agree. For example, one of several interesting results my test flagged-up was that I had remarkably low secretion of pancreatic Elastase, and of course this can have major implications for digestive health in terms of malabsorption and inflammation.
Wow, thanks for all the help. I didn't know you get a lot more from fermented foods than you do from probiotic supplements. I'm aware of the importance of getting fermented foods in my diet, but I don't think I would like the taste of any of them. I hate coleslaw anyway. Rejuvelac is bearable so I suppose I could start consuming that regularly. But, is that enough, or would I need a variety of fermented foods to ensure I'm getting a variety of bacteria strains? And how much do you consume a day?
Also, how do you find a doctor that is skilled in this area that can do CDSA testing?
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