Category Archives: Illness

Probiotics and Children’s Immunity

A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.

The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.

The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.

Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).

In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.

This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.

Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ‘5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).

Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.

Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.

  1. Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
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Beat the winter bugs with beneficial bacteria

As the weather worsens and the season of colds and coughs approaches, our thoughts turn towards ways in which we can support our immune systems to help keep us fighting fit throughout the winter.

A current theory in medicine, known as the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’, states that our obsession with household cleaners and overzealous hand washing with anti-bacterial agents may be to blame for a rise in infections, as well as conditions such as asthma.

Our immune system is designed to fight infection from bacteria, viruses and parasites as well as recognise foreign substances as allergens. As our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past, we no longer have to elicit an immune response. The theory indicates that bacteria can in fact be helpful for supporting our immune systems.

So, how can we use bacteria to help boost our immunity? Health experts suggest we should allow children to be children by letting them play outside in mud and with their friends, and worrying less about them coming into contact with dirt and germs. There is also an increasing body of evidence supporting the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) for immune support. Our digestive tract functions as a barrier against potentially harmful bacteria and food. It is known that supplementing with probiotics can help mediate our immune response, reducing inflammation and protecting us against exposure to potentially harmful bugs.

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OptiBac Probiotics contains beneficial probiotic strains

Here we explore some of the OptiBac Probiotics’ products and their potential benefits for immune health.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily immunity, a blend of probiotics and antioxidants, contains targeted probiotic strains to help support immunity. If you feel you catch colds too frequently, this is a product to consider, or for those who have lower levels of friendly bacteria such as the elderly and those who lead active, demanding lives.

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing is a daily supplement that promotes a healthy balance of friendly bacteria throughout the entire intestinal tract. For daily wellbeing is suitable for anyone seeking probiotic support on a daily basis (aged over 4 years and over).

OptiBac Probiotics For daily wellbeing EXTRA strength is dairy-free supplement extra strength formula with 20 billion live microorganisms per capsule. It may benefit those with a severe imbalance of good and bad intestinal bacteria, skin conditions, or those with particularly busy lifestyles.

OptiBac Probiotics For your child’s health is a natural symbiotic supplement to support digestion and immunity in infants and children, and pregnant & breastfeeding women. For your child’s health is suitable for babies and children from 6 months of age.

References

Cazzola, M. et al. (2010) Efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in the prevention of common diseases in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study; Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease 0(0) pp. 1-8

Rautava, S. et al (2002). ‘Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant’. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Jan Vol. 109 (1), pp. 119-121

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Serrapeptase: 5 Main Health Benefits

Serrapeptase, technically called Serratio Peptidase, is a proteolytic enzymes, meaning that it dissolves or digests protein. Serrapeptase was first found in silkworms, as it is this enzyme that silkworms use to dissolve their cocoons. It is now produced as a nutritional supplement through fermentation of plant-grown enzymes.

How does it work?
The reason that serrapeptase has such valuable therapeutic potential is that it dissolves only non-living tissue – tissues that can be a barrier to healing and optimal health. This special enzyme also helps reduce swelling after injury and inhibits the release of chemical messengers that cause pain. Its unique properties have led to a number of studies investigating its therapeutic benefits.

There are five main health benefits associated with serrapeptase:

  1. It is often used for its pain relieving benefits. Serrapeptase decreases pain by blocking the release of bradkinin and other ‘pain messengers’ from inflamed or damaged tissue (1). Because of this it is often used as an alternative to common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and is especially favoured by those concerned about side effects of long term NSAID usage such as ulcers bleeding in the digestive tract.
  2. Serrapeptase has been studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits (2). The supplement is believed to improve symptoms related to a whole host of inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, migraine and others due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
  3. The supplement is an effective mucolytic, meaning that it thins mucous. It shows promise as a treatment for those with chronic sinusitis (3). Ear, nose and throat problems also involve uncomfortable symptoms linked with increased mucous secretion. Serrapeptase has also been studied as a potential treatment for these conditions (4).
  4. Serrapeptase also appears to play a role in healing injury. The supplement has been used to support post-operative recovery, as well as speeding recovery from sprains and other injuries. For example, in a group of patients undergoing knee surgery, those taking serrapeptase supplements showed a 50% reduction in swelling compared to controls (5). Injured joints, ligaments or muscles are coated with fibrin which works to support the injured tissue while it regenerates. Sometimes excess fibrin can form unwanted scar tissue, inflammation and pain. This fibrin takes up valuable space in which living tissue should grow, reducing the motion of muscles and joints. Therefore by dissolving fibrin, serrapeptase offers potential to enhance recovery after injury.
  5. Because of its ability to dissolve fibrin, serrapeptase has also been used to dissolve arterial plaque, fibrous blockages in clogged or hardened arteries. As serrapeptase only dissolves dead or damaged tissue, this could enable the dissolution of harmful atherosclerotic plaques without causing any harm to the inside of the arteries.
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Serrapeptase may help in supporting injuries and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

Studies of serrapeptase supplementation have found positive benefits with a dosage of around 10mg, taken after meals three times daily. No long-term studies of this supplement have yet been conducted, although studies to date suggest that supplementation for a period of 4 weeks seems safe (1,2).

Although preliminary research looks promising, many of the studies have been small or uncontrolled and much of the supporting evidence is anecdotal (6). Serrapeptase does appear to show promise as an agent for reducing pain and inflammation and support recovery. Clearly more research is needed to determine the role and value of serrapeptase in medicine, though studies to date suggest it has some clinical potential.

References

1. Mazzone A et al (1990) Evaluation of Serratiapeptidase in acute or chronic inflammation of torhinolarygology pathology: a multi-centre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18:379-88.

2. Tachibana M, Mizukoshi O, Harada Y, et al (1984) A multi-centre, double-blind study of serrapeptase versus placebo in post-antrotomy buccal swelling. Pharmatherapeutica 3:526-30.

3. Mizukoshi D et al (1982) A double-blind study of Danzen tablets in the treatment of chronic sinusitis. Igaku Ayumi 123:768-778.

4. Mazzonie C et al (1990) Evaluation of serrapeptase in acute or chronic inflammation of otorhinolaryngology pathology: a multicentre, double-blind randomized trial versus placebo. J Int Med Res 18(5):379-388.

5. Esch VP et al (1989) Reduction of postoperative swelling. Objective measurement of swelling in upper ankle joint in treatment with serrapeptase – a prospective study (german) Fortschr Med 107(4):76-8.

6. Bhagat S et al (2013) Serratiopeptidase: a systematic review of the existing evidence. Int J Surg 11(3):209-217.

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Antibiotic resistance a ‘global crisis’

Antibiotic resistance has been receiving a lot of attention in the media recently. England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Professor Davies is quoted in the media as saying: “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible – similar to global warming.” Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, has also warned of a “global crisis in antibiotics”.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to a quicker resistance
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to a quicker resistance

Antibiotic resistance is quite simply a product of natural selection, or evolution. Bacteria, like any living organism, will occasionally mutate at random. If a particular mutation enables the bacteria to survive an ‘attack’ of antibiotics, then the mutated resistant bacteria will continue to live and multiply.

Several studies have shown that antibiotic usage greatly hastens the development of these resistant bacteria. Other contributing factors include incorrect diagnosis, unnecessary prescriptions (for example, when antibiotics are prescribed for a non-bacterial viral infection) and the improper use of antibiotics by patients (such as not completed the full course of antibiotics).

Antibiotics in the food chain

Perhaps one of the most worrying trends in antibiotic administration is the routine use of antibiotics in the food chain. Antibiotic resistance can be passed on to humans through eating animal products, after livestock are fed antibiotics to fatten them up and to help reduce illness in crowded factory conditions. These antibiotics are often given in long-term low doses, simply to encourage the animals to gain weight and to fend off bacterial infection.

Additionally, research at Minnesota University has found that vegetables can be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as they may have been grown with manure obtained from antibiotic-treated animals (1).

It is interesting that, way back in 1945, Alexander Fleming warned of this problem, voicing it is his speech on accepting the Nobel prize: “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant”.

What can we do?

It will be important moving forward to ensure that antibiotics are reserved only for when they are truly required. Choosing organic foods may well be a wiser choice. Animals raised organically should not have been exposed to antibiotics. Additionally organic fruit and vegetables marked with the Soil Association stamp tend to be grown by organic farmers with their own supply of manure, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination.

In the coming years, it is hoped that pharmaceutical companies are able to offer workable alternatives to antibiotics in light of the current crisis. The use of probiotics may offer a realistic option, especially as harmful bacteria are unable to develop resistance to probiotics – the good bacteria simply crowd them out while producing inhibitors that destroy the infection (2, 3). A recent clinical trial following 155 hospital patients found that daily supplementation with LAB4 probiotic strains alongside antibiotics significantly reduced the number of antibiotic resistant strains by more than 70% compared to the placebo group (4).

I have also had much success supporting digestive health using herbal approaches. Stool testing in clinic can identify antibiotic resistance while also testing sensitivity to herbal treatments, so that an appropriate nutritional therapy programme can be designed. For example, compounds such as those naturally present in garlic and onions, and herbs such as oregano, ginger and cloves, offer antimicrobial properties. Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern, and more research into alternatives is needed. In the meantime, both probiotic and herbal support, included as part of your everyday diet, may help boost the body’s natural defences against pathogens.

References

1. Livestock antibiotics can end up in human foods. Enewswire.com (2007). Retrieved 29/03/2013.

2. Chukeatirot E. (2003) Potential use of probiotics. Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol. 2003 Mar-Apr;25(2):276-282.

3. Kondadacha OD et al (2011) The role of probiotics in aquaculture in nigeria: A review. Wilolud Journals. Jan;5(1):8-15.

4. Plummer et al. (2005) Effects of probiotics on the composition of the intestinal microbiota following antibiotic therapy. Int Microbial Agents 26 (1): 69–74.

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