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  • As pointed out in past TotalHealth articles, many fungi and bacteria found in foods are beneficial to health. Whether one is discussing breads, cheeses, fermented tofu, wines, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi or a number of other items, very often it turns out that traditional cooking and preserving techniques involving fungi and bacteria offer many benefits that are lost with modern alternatives.

    This having been said, a major benefit of modern food science is the ability to supply beneficial bacteria in concentrated forms. The following discussion is intended to answer questions regarding the class of dietary supplements referred to as probiotics. Readers who wonder why some products have single strains and others offer many, why there often are numbers or other designations after Latin names of the bacteria, what benefits might be expected and how soon, etc., should read on. The species and strains mentioned happen to be ones with which the author is most familiar.

    Do different probiotic strains affect the body in different ways? Do people benefit from having more of one strain than another?

    The human gut consists of a series of microenvironments. Except for the stomach and the upper two thirds of the small intestine, there are differing bacteria and ratios of bacteria in each of these areas, starting with the mouth. In fact, the human gastrointestinal tract contains a large and diverse population of microorganisms—over 800 different bacterial species comprising nearly 100 trillion living organisms. The composition of this gut flora varies among individuals depending on diet, age, medication (antibiotics), stress, and physiological conditions. Not surprisingly, different probiotics perform different functions and offer different benefits. One big divide, of course, is between the two most important groups of typical probiotic bacterial species, Lactobacilli, found mostly in the lower small intestine and upper large intestine, and Bifidobacteria, found mostly in the large intestine, i.e., the areas of lower pH (meaning more acidic).

    Broadly speaking, the Lactobacilli act on sugars and starches to create lactic acid, among other things. For instance, L. acidophilus La-14 (La-14 indicates the strain within the particular species) assists in breaking down lactose (milk sugar) and 15 other carbohydrates and this may improve digestion of dairy products by those individuals who are lactose intolerant. Clinical trials have shown that this strain may improve immune response and bowel regularity. It works especially well in conjunction with another bacteria strain, L. rhamnosus R0011. Interestingly, L. rhamnosus R0011 in conjunction with L. helveticus R0052 in humans enhances the eradication of H. pylori (a cause of stomach ulcers) when ingested in combination with conventional medical treatment.

    Bifidobacteria, especially such as B. longum BB536 (Morinaga strain), have been shown to colonize the intestine, stimulate immune response, and promote the growth of other beneficial bacteria. BB536 also decreased the incidence of influenza in seniors in trials. Blood analysis showed significantly higher bactericidal activity of neutrophils and higher NK cell activity at the fifth week of administration compared to pre-administration. There has also been evidence reported that suggests BB536 can help modulate allergies and possess antiallergenic effects. Even more recent research is looking at the benefits of this strain in the areas of brain inflammation and dementia.

    The finding that certain strains of probiotics reduce excessive inflammation by means of modulation of immune and other responses via the gut is one of the major advances in the knowledge of probiotics in recent years.

    Inasmuch as different probiotic species and different strains of the same species often provide different and distinct benefits and also often interact to lead to yet other results, there are good reasons for supplementing with more than one strain and/or species (I refer loosely and not entirely scientifically to "species" here to distinguish also, for instance, Saccharomyces boulardii, which is not another bacterial strain, but instead a probiotic yeast). Similarly, different supplemental probiotics may be more to be desired at certain ages or under particular conditions. No single strain can easily fulfill all these requirements. A mixture of species, therefore, is usually most suitable for supplementation. The most desirable properties of a good probiotic are:

    • Compatibility among the strains
    • Ability to survive passage through the digestive tract
    • Stability under normal gastric conditions
    • Resistance to bile salts
    • Adherence to intestinal mucosa
    • Colonization of the human intestinal tract and/or extended residence time
    • Safety with regard to human use
    • Production of natural antimicrobial substances
    • Antagonism against unfriendly and putrefactive bacteria
    • Stability during storage under normal conditions

    When purchasing a probiotic supplement, how many different strains should be in supplement and are all the strains in equal parts?

    There is no one answer to this question. The probiotic yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, typically is supplemented by itself before, during and immediately after antibiotic treatment, but otherwise may be supplemented in general with a mixture with bacterial probiotics. As a rule, it is best to supplement at least the two primary species of probiotics, Lactobacilli, found mostly in the lower small intestine and upper large intestine, and Bifidobacteria, found mostly in the large intestine. Three to eight species and/or strains is a common number. Keep in mind that these species and strains must be compatible both in the delivery format and after administered.

    What fibers are effective prebiotics?

    Let's start by defining the role of prebiotics. According to researchers in the field, "Prebiotics are supplements or foods that contain a nondigestible food ingredient that selectively stimulates the favorable growth and/or activity of indigenous probiotic bacteria. Human milk contains substantial quantities of prebiotics." 1 Some researched prebiotic fibers include trans-galactooligosaccharide, oligofructose, inulin, larch arabinogalactin, resistant starch, pectin, beta-glucans, xylooligosaccharides, and oligofructose-enriched inulin. Recently, scientists have begun to recognize that a number of polyphenols have prebiotic properties, although there as yet is no consensus as to the amounts required for benefits. For instance, proanthocyanidins and other compounds found in grape seed and red wine can positively affect gut microbial health, as can related compounds found in dark/minimally processed chocolate and in cranberries. This is an emerging area of knowledge.

    What is the importance of pH in digestive health and how can dietary supplements support a balanced pH?

    The degree of acidity or alkalinity of a given region of the gut can be given as its pH. The stomach should have a very low pH (relatively acidic) prior to meals, e.g., a pH of 2 or below, because this is needed to digest proteins and to provide a protective barrier against bacterial invasion of the rest of the gastrointestinal tract. A low pH in the stomach also is required to maintain the tonus of the esophageal sphincter to avoid "heartburn" and other gastrointestinal reflux conditions. The upper small intestine may approach a neutral pH of 6 and slightly above after pancreatic digestive fluids are mixed into foods coming from the stomach; this higher pH is required for the digestion of fats and for the actions of pancreatic enzymes. As foods proceed through the small intestine, the pH should slowly decrease as a result of bacterial action producing lactic and other acids. Short-chain fatty acids produced in the intestines exert a number of health effects. The return to a lower pH in the large intestine is required to produce peristalsis to maintain the proper passage of food through the bowel.

    Hydrochloric acid precursor supplements can be taken to improve the production of gastric acid in the stomach. Betain HCl commonly is used for this purpose.

    How do enzymes, herbs and botanicals affect acute symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, nausea or diarrhea?

    Herbs can help for a variety of reasons. Chamomile is famous for calming properties and typically is taken as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory. Peppermint, especially the oil delivered by enteric soft gelatin capsules, is another item for calming the GI-tract. Type "peppermint irritable bowel" into PubMed and there will be 60 or more hits. Again, it is an antispasmodic. Ginger is widely touted—and human trials confirm this—as being good for several forms of nausea. Readers of past TotalHealth articles may recall that the Asian herb/food known as bitter melon, especially in its wild forms, improves various aspects of gastrointestinal health. (Bitter melon is best consumed with small amounts of "warming" herbs such as ginger or turmeric.)

    A review published in 2012 concluded, "Amongst the most important we can find [with digestion-enhancing properties] [are] ginger, peppermint, aniseed and fennel, citrus fruits, dandelion and artichoke, melissa and chamomile, but many more have a significant body of experimental data available."2

    Pancreatin, which includes trypsin, amylase and lipase, is specifically produced by the body to digest proteins, carbohydrates and fats under the relatively neutral pH conditions found in the stomach at the end of acid digestion and, primarily, in the small intestine. What most people do not realize is that the body tends to conserve digestive enzymes. Long-term use of digestive enzymes can help increase the body's own reserves of these enzymes for better digestion.

    Although enzymes can help acutely with indigestion, this may not be the best way of conceptualizing their benefits. Retailers should try to find ways to highlight the contrast between treating the symptoms of poor digestion and actually improving digestion. For instance, as a practical matter, no one has too much acid in the stomach, so quite obviously taking proton pump inhibitors makes worse an underlying condition—too little gastric acid. Blocking acid release may make gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) temporarily less painful, but it does not address why GERD exists.

    How does "cleansing" support digestive health? What is a safe and effective cleanse?

    It is important to distinguish between detoxification and cleansing approaches. Detoxification programs typically focus on the liver and involve the endogenous Phase I and Phase II detoxification systems. Cleansing programs, in contrast, focus on the large intestine and are based on theories of autointoxication from partially digested foods, especially meat and other animal foods, leading to the build-up of mucus and other wastes in the intestines with the absorption of these toxins into the blood.

    There is a grain of truth to cleansing theories. A considerable part of the toxins and waste products of the body, such as spent hormones, are eliminated through the bile and thus via the stool. Likewise, it certainly is true that a lack of fiber in the diet and dysbiosis in the gut can lead to toxins being reabsorbed multiple times before being fully excreted from the body. These two pieces fit together because in its detoxification processes, the body binds toxins in a variety of ways, two of which are glucuronidation and sulfation, and then disposes of the toxins via the bile. Without adequate fiber, including fiber that can support the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut, toxins disposed via the bile can be reabsorbed many times before eventually being eliminated from the body. Similarly, without the proper fiber, toxins can influence the health of the cells lining the large intestine. Especially important in this light are synbiotics, meaning combinations of prebiotics (such as fiber) and probiotics that work well together to deliver greater health benefits.

    Nevertheless, many of the claims of cleansing programs seem suspect. For instance, the large intestine turns over the cells that make up the intestinal lumen roughly every three days, so claims of a build-up of impacted fecal matter (as opposed to constipation, something entirely different) do not match the evidence.

    What can a cleansing program accomplish? First, it can mark a transition to a new general diet. Consuming more fiber (soluble, semisoluble and insoluble) is well established to improve constipation, diverticulosis, some forms of irritable bowel, and to protect against colorectal cancer. How much is needed? Most estimates are 20–35 grams per day rather than the usual American consumption of only 10–15 grams per day. Some health writers suggest consuming herbal gums such as frankincense, myrrh and mastic gum during this period.

    Second, dysbiosis is a real issue and a turnover in the make-up of the stool through the addition of fiber and probiotics—a synbiotic approach—can help to change the intestinal milieu. Again, constipation, diverticular disease and forms of inflammatory and irritable bowel can be improved by this combination approach.

    The best reason to undertake a cleanse is to transition to a diet higher in vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fiber-rich foods in general. This also should help the system move to a different make-up of intestinal bacteria. A very simple way to accomplish this is to add approximately 10 grams of good quality fiber to each meal and, assuming that one does not have a blocked bile duct, to take supplements that increase the release of bile. These include gentian, artichoke leaf, chicory root, dandelion root and yellow dock. At the same time, a good probiotic should be started to positively influence the composition of the bacteria found in the gut. The first few days of such a cleanse may be a bit uncomfortable and be characterized by unusual gas and bloating, but by the end of one or two weeks things should stabilize. Higher fiber intake from whole fruit (not juice), vegetables, legumes and whole grains should continue.

    Probiotics for Digestive Health

    Too often the impression is that if one or two billion colony forming units (CFU) of a probiotic species is good, then 50 or 100 billion must be better. Research and real life experience do not always agree with this! There is a strong argument to be made that approximately two billion CFU of any given strain is quite enough for everyday usage if the species and its strain is, in fact, appropriate for the intended purpose. Formulas containing multiple species and multiple strains might supply CFU in the range of 10–15 billion using this reasoning.

    Lactobacillus acidophilus is generally considered safe for most people. Gas, upset stomach, and diarrhea are potential side effects in some people (not on antibiotic therapy) who take more than 1 to 2 billion L. acidophilus CFUs daily.3

    Supplement shoppers examining probiotic products need to keep in mind that there are many more types of desirable organisms in the gastrointestinal tract than merely Bifidobacilli and Lactobacilli. For instance, according to Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College London and director of the British Gut Microbiome project, a "healthy gut is like a perfect English garden. You've got a diversity of microbes of all types, all living together and feeding off each other's by products—nothing is wasted."4

    Overloading the GI-tract with huge numbers of probiotic bacteria can crowd out the diversity of bacteria that should be found in the gut. The result can be so-called "cleansing" episodes of either or both diarrhea and constipation. Moreover, excess supplementation or supplementation with probiotic strains that do not match a person's constitution, rather than addressing the issues of gas and bloating, actually can increase these. If a probiotic supplement program still continues to cause gas and bloating after two weeks, a different source of probiotics may be found to be more appropriate.

    Finally, do not overlook the fact that actual food sources of probiotics often are the best sources. This means real cheeses with live cultures, live yoghurt, real rather than artificially soured sauerkraut, traditionally prepared kimchi and other Asian soured vegetables, traditionally prepared and preserved pickles (all of these will be in the refrigeration section of the store), live sour creams and sour milks, naturally yeast-leavened breads made the traditional way, and so forth and so on. Among other benefits, these foods not only often are more nutritious, but also simply generally taste better.

    1. Pediatrics. 2010 Dec;126(6):1217–31.)
    2. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:82–9.)
  • Many people know me as the "Doctor of the Seasons," mainly because my first book—Staying Healthy With the Seasons—focuses on the natural cycles in the Earth, Sun and Moon, and how we might align ourselves more with these cycles to achieve optimal health.

    I will never forget my first Spring after discovering the essential truth about cycles and health. That season took on a special new meaning for me since it was no longer simply a time for the melting of snow or shift from damp and cold with the greening and gradual warming toward the heat of Summer. Spring for me became a season of true renewal and cleansing— both inside and out. It came to symbolize the time of change for me, clearing past patterns and a few pounds of Winter to lighten up and create space for fresh and new ones to emerge and bring greater vitality and health.

    I have now seen 40 Springs since I became a doctor, and 38 since I did my first 10-day juice cleanse, a life changing path for my health and career. I view Spring also as transformative time with the opportunity to change the lives of others and initiate them into shifting from old, unhealthy ways to create new diets and lifestyles towards a more integrative, preventive, and natural approach to health and wellness.

    My thoughts of Spring are in a series of simple "tips" which I have written about on my website Following is a newer version for your review and motivation:


    1. Become Current in Your Life
    Spring is a time to shed your former self and shift the habits that hinder your progress toward optimal health. It is a season to embrace yourself honestly as you look at all of your habits and areas of your life. Recognize Spring as a special season to care for yourself and your loved ones. If you can establish this practice now, there is a greater likelihood that you will continue throughout the year. Assess the various aspects of your life to see where stresses or weaknesses exist, including your diet, exercise program, work, or relationships. Focus on the areas that need improvement and develop a simple and achievable plan to bring these areas current in your life.

    2. Look at Your Relationships
    Take the time to examine the health of your personal and professional relationships. Sometimes, there can be issues in these relationships that hinder you from achieving your professional goals or your highest levels of energy and health. An attitude of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness is one that promotes both outer and inner healing. Consider including your significant other, friends, or relatives to go along with you in a Spring Cleansing diet for their own good and for all of your mutual support.

    3. Choose Three Habits That You Can Change
    Think about three habits in your life and attitudes that are likely to undermine your health and life. How and when did they begin? Are they persisting or have they run their course? Which ones are most important for you to change or incorporate to create a healthier you? Do you need help or can you do this on your own? My "top three" habits that I am changing include:

    1. Eat more lightly at night so that I can digest more fully to be less full for sleep;
    2. Take more time for stretching and yoga; and
    3. Create with some other experts a nutritional plan to reverse some plaque I have and to continue to clear my coronary arteries.

    It's easier to give habits up if you start something new, like breathing and relaxing more, walking, dancing, romancing, and overall, making more time for health.

    4. Clean and Organize Your Home
    Oftentimes, your outer world can be a reflection of your inner one. If your home and workplace are chaotic it could be a sign that your inner life is also in need of some "Spring Cleaning." I love the feeling of looking at my desk, my closet, and every nook and cranny around my house and office, and wanting to freshen and simplify it all. An added benefit of this activity is that it is a good way to stay out of the kitchen and look at other areas of my life. Of course, the kitchen can be one of the rooms in your home that need the most cleaning and organizing, especially if it has become cluttered with unhealthful foods, beverages and snacks. When I can move things forward and recycle what I can, my life feels and looks cleaner and lighter at the end of my Spring Cleaning, and has space for the new to land.

    5. Get Outdoors and Exercise
    How many of you move less during the colder, dark winter months? Isn't Nature wise in giving us the season of Spring to emerge from our "hibernation?" Move your Body! Stay Fit and Stay Healthy. Hike and explore your neighborhood and extended community or find a place you have heard about and want to visit. I love the lightness and easiness I feel when I am cleansing, and my body feels more flexible and able to do my aerobic exercise. A yoga class is a good experience to expand our flexibility. Breathe and relax as well. Play flute, dance, and make time for romance. Remember, this is the Spring season!

    6. Take a Fresh Look at Your Dietary Choices
    There is only one person responsible for what you put in your body—that's YOU! What do you choose to put in that mouth of yours? And what do you fuel your other "mouths" with; those areas of energy intake, like your eyes, ears, skin, and heart? A good way to gain some perspective about what you put in, on, and around your body is to write down a few days of your typical diet, then assess it and write a new plan based on your knowledge of what is right for you. You may also wish to take a break from the TV, news, violent movies, and stressful people while you are purifying your life. And let's not forget "getting off the grid" (the digital "grid" that is"). Regarding your diet, it's good to have a reference by taking a break, even with substances like caffeine and sugar (as in my book, The Detox Diet), to see how you feel and what level your dependence is on your favorite substances. I can assure you that it feels good to release yourself from those habits. Remember, Better Choices create Better Health!

    7. Take Stock of Your Emotional Life
    Spring is a great time to take stock of your emotional and spiritual life. It's an excellent time to ask yourself—without judgment—- how do I feel generally about life and about myself? Am I low or depressed? Or am I more positive and energetic? Ideally, we can feel a wide range of emotions based on our daily life experience and not dwell on one particular emotion, which is the real problem. Embrace the whys of moods and energy levels with greater honesty of your true feelings, which is the beginning of healing feelings. And I can tell you that many factors ranging from your diet and digestive health to your early childhood learned behavior patterns influence your mood, energy level, and emotions, and thus your Spiritual WellBeing.

    8. Participate in a Cleansing or Detox Program for 1–3 Weeks This Spring
    Spring is a season for true cleansing and natural detoxification. Types of cleanses and detox programs range from very simple to complex. I often recommend simple juice cleansing, the detox diet, or basic elimination diets, such as a period off sugar, chocolate, sodas, milk products, wheat, or whatever you believe undermines your health. To do this successfully, it helps to write out a plan and focus on what you will do and what you are going to consume, and not what you are leaving out. Make a list of your good foods, shop for them, and have them available whenever you are hungry. And drink lots of good water.

    At minimum, take a break from the Big Five:

    1. Sugar
    2. Caffeine
    3. Alcohol
    4. Wheat
    5. Dairy

    9. Evaluate Your Nutritional Supplements
    Supplements can offer benefits, cause some imbalances, or be of no effect whatsoever (except on your wallet). Ask yourself: What are the best supplements to use especially during a detoxifying diet? I suggest, with a food-based Detox Program, a simple age- and gender-appropriate multivitamin/mineral along with additional antioxidants that include vitamins C and E (mixed natural tocopherols), and selenium as the basic supplement plan. Also helpful for most people are herbs that stimulate bowel function to support the cleansing process, and blue green algae (like Chlorella or Spirulina) for energy and detox support. I also suggest drinking plenty of water and herbal teas. Calcium and magnesium before bed can help with relaxation and sleep or a buffered vitamin C formula with those minerals (plus potassium) help to alkalinize and cleanse the body. 5-HTP can help for sleep, at amounts of 50-150 mg at bedtime.

    10. Make Your Overall Plan and Commitments
    Begin this Spring by looking at the key areas of your life, which include:

    • Your Health
    • Your Personal Habits
    • Love and Relationships, and
    • Career or Work.

    And if LOVE moves into all those areas, that is all the better as you will care for yourself and your life, plus your relationships in a positive way. Human love is temporal for many, yet love in the Spirit is everlasting. We are all blessed to share this garden, this Earth, which needs our Love and Protection. We must take the time to Nurture Nature, in order to be Nourished and Flourish.

  • The body naturally builds up toxins. Even within Total Life Cleanse Jonathan Glass a relatively clean environment and with a healthy diet, we benefit from regular seasonal cleansing. Cleansing has always been the foundation of natural health systems, including Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. These systems honor the body's innate intelligence to heal itself.

    Our modern condition, stressed, starved and poisoned, contributes significant amounts of toxins and stressors to our daily existence. Even though cleansing has always been essential, the need for regular cleansing is greater than ever. Cancer, heart disease and diabetes—the diseases of modern toxicity—are off the chart and on the rise.1

    Deeper reasons to cleanse
    Cleansing helps us remove toxins, maintain healthy immune systems and increase elimination—but it also helps us feel mentally clearer and more spiritually connected. It benefits us on a profound level because when we remove obstacles to our well-being, we are better able to connect to ourselves. According to Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine from the East, the cause of all disease is the ignoring of our own innate intelligence and experience. Cleansing also helps to clear the slate of our minds, so that we better connect to our innate wisdom, enabling us to move forward so that we are more intimately in touch with ourselves.

    Every organ is related to emotion. Therefore, when you make positive changes on a physical level, you will also see emotional benefits. When we understand the power of our daily dietary and lifestyle habits on a deeper level, we start to wake up to a life with more joy, clarity and intention.

    What does a cleansing diet look like?

    No refined sugar
    Healthy diets call for low to no refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, two of the most addictive and disease-causing substances on the planet.

    No refined carbohydrates
    Eliminate refined carbs in the form of grains that have been stripped of nutrients, leaving just the flour. Include whole grains and starches, such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and ancient forms of wheat. Most successful diets minimize or completely eliminate modern inorganic wheat and corn products.

    No processed vegetable oils
    Processed vegetable oils that have been highly refined and highly heated are often oxidized and stripped of nutritional value, and they were never part of the food chain until the past one hundred years.

    Most processed oils are high in omega-6 essential fatty acids and low in omega-3s, an imbalance that contributes to inflammatory conditions. Additionally, unless they are organic, corn, soy, canola and cottonseed oils are all genetically modified.

    No dairy
    Most healthy diets eliminate dairy products except for ghee and fresh, organic cultured products like kefir and yogurt. Dairy builds mucus in the body, is hard to digest, and burdens the immune system.

    Copious amounts of produce
    Multicolored vegetables and fruits support immunity and good elimination, regulate body weight, and feed the friendly bacteria in the gut.

    Whole foods
    Healthy diets focus on eating an abundance of whole foods instead of counting calories or obsessing about ideal macro-nutrient ratios. They don¡¦t include processed or manufactured foods.

    Outside of the cleanse diet, you might want to incorporate a few simple home practices for regular detox throughout the year.

    How do you go beyond diet when cleansing?
    There are some simple home practices that you can incorporate for regular detox throughout the year, or ramp up while focusing on a dietary detox:

    Sweating for Skin and Lymph Detoxification
    The body releases hundreds of chemicals and toxins through the skin in our sweat. In this way, sweating benefits the lymphatic system, kidneys, lungs, skin, liver and blood. Sweating can be achieved through exercise, sauna or bathing.

    Dry Brushing and External Oleation
    Using a dry brush, which can be purchased at most health food stores, removes dead skin cells from the surface. After dry brushing, lightly massaging the entire body from head to toe with sesame or coconut oil is extremely nourishing for the tissues, assists the body with drawing out fat-soluble toxins, and rejuvenates and moisturizes the skin.