Just as in the human world, dominant individuals wanting to maintain their dominance will greedily take whatever they can for themselves. They manipulate the environment to suit themselves. In the gut, certain microbes will attempt to do the same. We can, however, influence the environment to strengthen the community and weaken the dominant microbes.
Our digestive system has over 100 trillion micro-organisms at any given time. Consider that supplements with 65 billion bacteria cells are a drop in the ocean compared to 100 trillion micro-organisms already there. There are steps you should take first to give this 65 Billion a fighting chance to colonise in the colon. Many probiotics have a transient effect, and won't colonise, particularly if the environment is overrun with pathogenic microbes. If the population of bacteria don't want the probiotic to be there, colonisation is less likely. They may have small effects as they pass through, however.
We often only think of bacteria in the colon, but we have bacteria all throughout our digestive tract. Each tooth can have between 1000 (very clean mouth) and 1 billion bacteria on it. The stomach and small intestine contain bacteria, but hopefully in small amounts due to the acidity.
The colon is home to the majority of digestive system bacteria. It contains about 100 trillion bacteria cells. The bacteria composition can vary widely across the population of people. If the balance is off, the symptoms can manifest in various ways (more details in our previous post).
If you, like most people, have an imbalance in the microbes in the colon, it's because there's a particular group of bacteria and yeasts that are in higher than wanted numbers. There are still 100's of billions of wanted microbes, but there happen to be far too many unwanted microbes and not enough of the good guys. Many of the bacteria strains in the probiotics are already in the colon. There are probably more already in the gut than in the probiotic, but they can't create balance. Adding more via a tablet or supplement will have little effect, and may not be value for money initially.
The reason the probiotic strains can't create balance is that the environment in the colon suits the unwanted microbes. Probiotics won't help until the environment the bacteria live in improves.
The reason balanced diversity isn't achieved is that the environment in the colon suits the unwanted microbes. Too often, kids with Autism, eat a narrow range of foods. They don't tend to eat many foods that are fibre rich with natural colours and promote a healthy environment for gut microbes. The bad guys have an abundance of their preferred food supply, which is usually sugars.
There isn't enough fibre and prebiotic foods that the good gut microbes need.
To put it another way, the wanted microbes are starving, while the unwanted microbes are feasting.
If we provide children with probiotics for any reason, we need to take into account the whole digestive system. Yakult, for example, which is a favourite probiotic drink for kids, contains 65 billion bacteria. When you consider there are already a few billion bacteria in the mouth, and 100 trillion in the gut, they're somewhat outnumbered. They then have to survive the acidic environment of the stomach. If they eventually reach the colon, they compete for food with the other existing bacteria residing in the colon.
For new strains of gut bacteria to colonise, they need to find a home on the colon mucosa, where they can set up a base to grow their numbers. If they can't do that, they continue through the colon and exit.
65 Billion is a drop in the ocean. Before dropping in some more bacteria to add diversity, we need to set up the environment, so that the new bacteria stands a chance of colonising.
Two main factors limit new probiotic strains' ability to colonise in most peoples' colons.
- The current community of microbes in the gut, don't accept the new strain or crowd them out.
- A weak environment in the colon lacks quality foods that beneficial bacteria need, and high sugars which pathogenic bacteria love.
Some people do report side effects of using probiotics such as abdominal pain, gas bloating, overstimulated immune system, constipation and the triggering of allergies. The reason why the side effects of using probiotics are reported may be that the environment of the gut hasn't been addressed first.