Volume 4, Issue 52
December 29, 2011

Are you taking your probiotic
the wrong way?

You probably already know that your intestinal tract has millions of bacteria. They perform a host of important biological and immune-related functions. These friendly bacteria are essential to your health. That’s why probiotic supplements, which contain various strains of these friendly bacteria, are so popular. But you may not be getting everything out of your probiotic. The reason? You could be taking it the wrong way.

Most people take their probiotic as capsules. The capsule keeps the bacteria concealed until it dissolves in your stomach. But is that the best way to take it? New research suggests swallowing these capsules doesn’t give you the full benefit of the probiotic. Here’s why.

Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria. One type of bad bacteria, strep mutans, cause dental cavities. Strep mutans binds to your teeth in a process called aggregation and form dental plaque. Then the strep mutans digests the sugars that you eat into acid byproducts. These byproducts break down the enamel on your teeth and cause cavities.

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Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to get rid of these nasty strep mutans bacteria and replace them with healthy bacteria? Well, it turns out there is. You can do it by chewing your probiotic.

Researchers in the Department of Pedodontics & Preventive Dentistry in Mullana, India wanted to see if probiotics mixed into ice cream might be a good way to reduce cavities in children. So they measured the levels of strep mutans in the saliva of school children before and after they ate an ice cream laced with the probiotic, lactobacillus.

None of the children had cavities before the experiment. Then, for 10 days, half the children ate the “good” ice cream. The other half ate the bad stuff. Following this, there was a two week washout period, during which time none of the children ate any ice cream. And then the researchers repeated the experiment. This time, they switched the groups. Here's what they found.

In each part of the experiment, the children eating the ice cream with the lactobacillus had significantly lower levels of strep mutans in their mouths. This in spite of the sugar in the ice cream. Here’s what we can learn from this study.

First of all, when you introduce bacteria into your intestinal tract, you need to introduce them the way God intended – through the mouth. This is because in the mouth bacteria interact with the salivary enzymes and also with immune cells. When you take probiotics as a capsule, none of these interactions happen. As a result, you lose some of the benefit of the probiotic.

Next, taking the probiotics directly into the mouth provides an important protection against cavities and dental infections that you miss if you take them as a capsule or tablet. And cleaning up the plaque in your mouth is important. There’s an abundance of information showing that dental plaque is more than just a problem for the teeth. It can also provide hiding places for bacteria in the mouth that can lead to cardiovascular and auto-immune disease. A simple little thing like chewing your probiotic capsule once or twice a week instead of just swallowing it, would not only prevent cavities, but it might also prevent a host of age-related degenerative disease.

The last thing that is obvious from the study is that the best way to take your probiotic is with ice cream. Just kidding on that one, of course. But I am sure that this is exactly what the dairy council would have you believe. And indeed, ice creams and other frozen desserts laced with probiotics are already available in other countries around the world, including  Spain, Ireland, Belgium, China, and India. If you’re going to eat ice cream, definitely take a probiotic with it.

One last comment: This works only for lactobacillus, but not other probiotics that are designed to reach the intestines.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

Singh RP, Damle SG, et al. Salivary mutans streptococci and lactobacilli modulations in young children on consumption of probiotic ice-cream containing Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 and Lactobacillus acidophilus La5.

Acta Odontol Scand. 2011 Nov;69(6):389-94. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Copyright 2011 Soundview Publishing, LLC.

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