Undoubtedly, probiotics have profound impact on our mindset and body. This is one of my favourite topics and you can read my previous blog to learn specifically how they can influence our mindset. What I am observing around me is the growing popularity of probiotic use as a supplement, as an additive to food, adding it to skincare for problematic skin conditions and commercially boosting levels in foods in which probiotics are naturally occurring. However, It is true that too much of a good thing can sometimes create a mess.
My key intention here is to open a dialogue with other individuals and practitioners about some of my recent clinical observations that are becoming more prevalent. Specifically, a couple of surprising limitations I have observed that, I believe, are linked to Lactobacillus overgrowth due to its overdose.
Probiotic bacteria according to the 2001 definition from World Health Organisation is “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Or so we thought. These days 99% of the probiotic supplements available off the shelf, to the consumer contain predominant levels of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Lactobacillus is a naturally occurring bacterium present in the vagina as well as the bowel. Lactobacilli normally colonises a woman’s vagina. These bacteria produce lactic acid that maintains the pH of the vaginal environment that then keeps other microbiota in check, especially Candida albicans. Lactobacillus also produces hydrogen peroxide which is the natural antiseptic, both of which are essential to optimal vaginal health.
In the last 5 years, I have found in my clinic that there has been a sharp increase in what seems like stubborn cases of vaginal candidiasis or an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans located in the vagina. In actual fact, many times the culprit has been an overgrowth of Lactobacillus. In the vagina, both a lactobacillus overgrowth (cytolytic vaginosis) and candida overgrowth (vaginal candidiasis) present similarly; intense and persistent vaginal itching, white discharge, thick sometimes curdlike or watery discharge, red inflamed skin, burning on passing urine, discomfort during sex. These symptoms may become worse during the second half of your menstrual cycle. You can tell the difference because a Lactobacillus overgrowth will not respond to anti-fungal drugs. A candida overgrowth will respond to anti-fungal drugs.
In terms of health trends, probiotics is hot and I believe that the popularity of taking probiotics daily and the dominance of lactobacillus in the products in the marketplace especially “off the shelf” products may be having a direct contribution to the increase of Cytolytic Vaginosis. More recently is the experience of a few clients who have reported long standing problems with small intestine discomfort, specifically relentless bloating, acid reflux and heart burn and therefore pain. It is not uncommon for them to test negative for (SIBO) Small intestine Bowel Overgrowth. All symptoms are aggravated with Lactobacillus containing probiotics. Upon questioning, they have taken probiotics for some time due to other reasons such as immune regulation, autism, various gut and skin disorders, mental-emotional regulation etc., and have developed a worsening of the very symptoms they are trying to fix. The probiotics they have used have between 2-4 different strains of which Lactobacillus and usually L. acidophilus has been present.
From what I have witnessed, these clients begin to improve on a D-Lactate free probiotic. What is ‘D-Lactate free’? The two major groups of probiotics are Lactobacillus (D-Lactate forming) or Bifidobacterium (L-Lactate forming). D-Lactate is the metabolic by-product of the Lactobacillus group.
From my readings, there are about 200 currently known different strains of microbiota in the gut therefore, I strongly recommend to my clients to steer clear from products that only contain 1,2 or 4 strains and opt for products that have 10 strains or more, even if the number of viable cells is less. There is less chance of creating an imbalance this way. In nature it seems that biodiversity is king and in the complex microenvironments of the human body, biodiversity is also king.
I am interested to know if you or anyone you know has had an experience like this or a comment to add to this discussion?
Sarah is a Senior Coach at Equilibrio and works with professionals, business owners and senior managers who are keen on experiencing the gratifying rewards of dove tailing their professional and personal lives. Sarah also works with stress related chronic ill health.