Do probiotics have a place in helping us treat MS? It seems like I keep getting asked by people if I am taking Probiotics once they learn that I have Multiple Sclerosis; and my answer has been off and on but not consistently. I suppose I have felt like since I have been eating healthier that the need to supplement with anything else really wasn’t needed. Then I decided that maybe more research was needed to see if I needed to change my mindset. I am always preaching to think outside the box when it comes to helping our disease. We all need to do more than just take our disease modifying drugs. With learning that most of our immune system is located in our gut, it became clear that eating a better diet increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables with leaner meats was necessary. Changing the way I prepared food became important such as baking or broiling meat in place of frying, reducing oils, butter, and even the amount of salt. The elimination of soda, high fat and processed foods, cutting back on sugar and starches also became a priority. Even though all this is good, it still may not be enough after doing some major research on probiotics.
I never understood the need to supplement with vitamins and now probiotics if my intake was full of vitamin rich foods but have learned that just the mere intake of these foods isn’t enough. The way we prepare or cook these foods may be less than nutritious by over cooking such as boiling too long in place of steaming to hold in the nutrients. Also, I just learned that our tap water can wash away good bacteria off of food because of the chemicals in it; the “good” bacteria which is found in probiotics. Then there is eating the right foods that have probiotics even in them. I didn’t know the importance of eating sour foods such as sauerkraut. The fermentation of this food is beneficial in providing natural probiotics. Even something like apple cider vinegar is recommended. I have read many benefits from taking in apple cider vinegar after some posts seen on FB. It is said to help bring down high blood pressure and cholesterol, aid in reducing inflammation, improve skin conditions, reduce weight, etc. Funny, once I read about reducing of weight and assisting with the breakdown of fat, I immediately went out and bought a bottle of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar. I take 2 Tbsp. of vinegar each morning in 8 oz. of warm water. Believe me when I say it is nasty to taste, but have found it kind of acts like a diuretic helping me to get rid of some built up fluid. It also has helped reduce hunger; but I guess we will see if it helps with anything else.
Probiotics are with us naturally in our bodies when we are born but over time with the use of antibiotics or other medications, eating chemically protected foods, the large amounts of sugar in our diet, drinking tap water, and even stress are just some of the reasons we have decreased amounts in our system as adults. Probiotics actually line our GI system allowing the absorption of vitamins; so decreased levels often lead to mal-absorption issues causing gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, IBS, Colitis, and other auto-immune diseases, creates vitamin deficiency which includes low vitamin B-12 which gives us energy. The invention of the refrigerator of all things is a large reason too for the lack of probiotics in our system. We learned in biology class that warmth was needed to any type of bacteria to grow. Maybe this is exactly why people in early history didn’t have the health issues that we see now because they had to eat fresh foods.
So learning the importance of probiotics, do we just run out and purchase a bottle of supplements that has probiotics in its name? The answer is no. From my research, it looks like all probiotic supplements are not created equal if they work at all. Our stomach acids don’t allow them pass on to the gut in most instances and if they do, we have to feed this bacteria with other stuff in order to keep it alive and working. This is where it gets tricky, in fact leaves me almost confused. One would almost need a nutritionist or medical doctor with you when selecting the appropriate probiotic. There are many forms of “good” bacteria and each helps with different issues. A resource to help describe these different ones and what they help is by Dr. Axe, www.draxe.com. He has developed guide explaining in great detail what it is, different types, the benefits, foods it can be found in, and what to look for in supplements. This is save you a great deal of money!
Even though the upside to taking probiotics seems to be numerous and encouraged, there are a couple of downsides. First you must not start taking these in large amounts due to a few unpleasant side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. You adjust the amounts increasing the amount you take gradually. Next, if you have an extremely suppressed immune system, speak with your physician before starting it. It is possible he will advise against you doing this. You may even want to check to see if your doctor recommends a certain brand or type of good bacteria which can benefit your specific problem.
Overall, probiotics seem to have a place in most everyone’s life and benefits do seem to outweigh the risks. Will it help with MS? If it helps reduce inflammation, and improves our immune system, the answer is yes. Now it seems I just need to find the supplement that will benefit me most, add foods which will help support it, and put include this habit in my daily routine.