Saturday, November 10, 2012

"I never met a probiotic that I didn't like."

Three times this past summer I took the long and difficult drive from PA to MN and back. Along the way I listened to podcasts, piano music (Brahms, Scriabin and Hersch) or ballgames. A few weeks ago, by chance, I heard a program on NPR's Science Friday that was right up my alley. It is entitled "Microbes benefit more than the gut".

 It can be found here.

Dr. Susan Lynch, an associate professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, discussed her recently published study on microbial diversity in the sinuses. An abstract of the study is here. During this interview Dr. Lynch touched on several of my favorite subjects including gut ecology, fecal transplants and Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum. (This is a bit of a joke.)

Dr. Lynch brings up several connections between the terrain of the sinuses and that of the gut - and what might be happening when things get out of whack.

Probiotics is a "hot" field these days.  I have a Google alerts on probiotics. Each day I read what comes across the screen. A year's study of probiotics research yields some valuable information.

The biggest news in the gut biome field was published in June 2012.  A significant mapping study of the gut biomes of over 240 normal people was presented by the Human Microbiome Project. "By mapping the normal microbial make-up of healthy humans using genome sequencing techniques, the researchers of the HMP have created a reference database and the boundaries of normal microbial variations in humans". Information about this study can be found here and elsewhere.

Various companies are studying and working on probiotics and probiotic formulations. The following is a selection of some interesting items.

Here is an article of studies indicating that Oxalobacter formigenes eats oxalates - with the possibility of reducing the chance of developing kidney stones. O. formigenes is not yet commercially available.

Micropharma is a company doing serious probiotic work. Here is an article on a probiotic formula that improves blood lipids and cholesterol. One of their main products is Cardioviva.

Another probiotic company is Chr. Hanson. This company has developed lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 in conjunction with Dr. Gregor Reid. Dr. Reid used this probiotic in a pilot study in Tanzania. This study inspired Marco Ruggiero to pursue his research into MAF 314.

Chr. Hanson has also developed a bifidabacterium, BB-12. BB-12 and LGG recently surfaced in this study involving colds and college students. Chr. Hansen has a page devoted to the research into this well-studied probiotic.

Dr. Reid is one of the foremost researchers in probiotics. As a microbiologist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario,  Dr. Reid co-developed a combo probiotic of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and lactobacillus reuteri RC-14. It is marketed by Chr. Hansen and Jarrow, sold under the name of Fem-dophilus. Here is Dr. Reid on youtube speaking about this combination of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus Reuteri 14 on yeast. Here is Dr. Reid talking more fully on probiotic research.

More recently Dr. Reid has stated that "Beneficial bacteria are indeed capable of degrading pesticides and sequestering toxic chemicals".

In this article, Dr. Reid lists those probiotics that he believes have been well studied.

Dr. Reid will be part of a one-day conference at NYAS in June 2013.

Most doctors - even those dealing with ME and other neuro-immune illness - do not give enough attention to gut ecology - and do even less to try to improve it. It does not seem to occur to them that gut ecology has something to do with immunce status or even autoimmunity. These gut changes, undertaken by patients, take time and effort to yield results. According to Dr. Kenny De Meirleir, turnover of gut ecology takes months. A state-of-the art Metagenomics test is available at Redlabs BE for tracking progress. A paper is soon to be published in regards to this test.

Gut ecology lies close to the center of this illness - and the ecology of the gut can be improved. Research and experience have pointed me towards specific agents. These are some good ones:

VSL #3
Fem-dolpholis (lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, l. reuteri RC-14)
Culturelle (reuteri GG)
Custom Probiotics (various, including lactate -free)
Mutaflor (E.coli Nissle)

The FDA has recently blocked the sale of Mutaflor in  the US and Canada. The reason? - the FDA claims Mutaflor is a a biological drug requiring trials and approval. Welcome to the future.

Recently I have become aware of Arabinogalactan. Arabinogalactan and its capabilities can be read about here.  Among other things larch arabinogalactan increases NK cell function. Here is an abstract from 1999.

And then there is MAF 314. 
This probiotic yogurt formula produces a tremendous amount of MAF. MAF decreases nagalase in the body.  Nagalase is a bad-boy enzyme. Nagalase levels can be measured at Vitamin Diagnostics (Health Diagnostics). The exact effect of this MAF 314 is unknown, and it is apt to remain that way for awhile. Beyond producing MAF, MAF 314 acts as a super-probiotic, delivering over thirty "good bacterias" in each dose. MAF-like probiotic formulas can be produced in the home, using existing probiotics and colostrum.

It is of interest that Dr. Gregor Reid is experimenting with his own version of a MAF-like probiotic, one which Professor Ruggiero says is very close to his own MAF 314. Dr. Ruggiero is working steadily to make MAF 314 more readily available.

Of course none of this improvement in gut ecology can be disconnected from diet - from what the patient puts in her mouth. Diet can also be treated now. Consult Dr. Myhill, Dr Terry Wahls, or Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The key activity is limiting or eliminating carbohydrates. Dr. Burrascano emphasizes the need to cut out carbohydrates. More clinicians need to approach treatment of neuro-immune illnesses with this global approach. (This is not exactly news to many patients. See this 1999 site. )

Research into gut ecology is steady and on-going. While patients suffering from this debilitating illness are waiting for research into the pathogens that might or might not be responsible, it might be worth taking note of the gut biome research and strive to do what one can now - even though the treatments are somewhat general at this point.

All of the above is presented for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult a physician (if you have or can find one).


  1. Hi Chris - thanks for this, as ever, a fascinating post. I'm taking MAF 878 so am very interested in this and like a lot of people with ME, also have sinusitis so hope that an improvement in my gut microbiome might also help my sinuses.

    I hadn't been aware that it's a good idea for people with ME to restrict carbohydrate. Interesting!

  2. I've added Bubbies' Sauerkraut and Kosher pickles to my diet, along with Real Pickles' fermented beets. This is in addition to yogurt and kefir. I would make the ferments myself but I'm too sick to do that. I did buy a yogurt maker so that I can make sugar free chemical free yogurt. Fermented and cultured foods are the original dietary sources of healthy bacteria for the gut. Like everything else they have helped a little with the CFS symptoms but I'm still pretty sick. I don't have access to the medicinal versions of probiotics but the ferments deliver far more microbes per dose than anything in a pill. However, no one has studied which bugs are in the ferments, at least to my knowledge.

  3. I have my caregivers devoting a good chunk of time to making water kefir and kombucha and I'm also eating Bubbie's live sauerkraut. I'd like to start making my own someday. I look forward to seeing if there is a shift after doing this for several months.

    I agree with the commenter above that making probiotics at home produces far higher beneficial bacteria counts than you get in the pills. Think Trillions instead of mere Billions.

  4. Interesting article and one which should be more widely known about in my view. Your level of detail is good and the clarity of writing is excellent. I have bookmarked it for you so that others will be able to see what you have to say.

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  5. Fantastic blog! I don't think Ive seen all the angles of this subject the way you've pointed them out. Youre a true star, a rock star man. You've got so much to say and know so much about the subject that I think you should just teach a class about it...

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  6. You all are probably already aware of the blog I find it very helpful.

  7. Have you guys heard of a probiotic called Visbiome? It has a really high potency with hundreds of billions of bacteria. Also, it has been studied thoroughly in more than 60 human clinical trials. I encourage you to check it out-

  8. I have been taking MAF 878 for 2 1/2 months. After six weeks a flip switched and I think I may be recovered or in remission. I'm exercising for short periods after being bed/housebound for over a decade and feeling no ME/CFS symptoms.
    I was following the Wahl's Protocol Plus for 18 months before I tried the MAF 878. I am very interested to hear ideas on why this works for me.