Can Probiotics Help with Food Sensitivities? A Gastroenterologist Weighs In

Have you ever been able to eat a particular food, but now find that you can’t digest it? In Part 3 of Ask Dr. B, The Gut Health MD, Dr. B dives into food sensitivities and the microbiome. Read on to learn the role that your microbiome—and probiotics—play in your chance of developing one or multiple food sensitivities.

 

Damage to the gut microbiome affects the way that we process our food. Have you noticed the rise in food sensitivities lately?!? Almost everyone I see in my gastroenterology clinic has a story to tell about the foods they used to eat and how they just can’t anymore.

Living in and on our body are a staggering 100 trillion or so microorganisms. Most of them are bacteria, but there are also yeasts, single-celled organisms called archaea, and potentially small parasitic worms. Oh, and let’s not forget the quadrillion viruses. The vast majority of these microorganisms reside in our large intestine, or colon.

They’re not there by accident. In fact, they’ve been with us from the very beginning of human history, contributing to our evolution and survival through the millennia. During this time, they’ve made themselves indispensable, playing a critical role in our food processing and metabolism, vitamin and nutrient production, immune optimization and prevention of inflammation, protection against invasive bacteria, regulation of serotonin release, and even gene expression. Okay, if you go through that list one more time you’re going to see…. that’s pretty much everything folks. Hence why all health starts in the gut.

When it comes to digestion, the microbes play a central role in the processing of our food by producing enzymes. Take a step back for a moment and consider the potential diversity of our food. There are 250,000 – 300,000 edible plants on this planet, and all of them contain their own types of fiber, or complex polysaccharides. As it turns out, these complex polysaccharides cannot be digested by us humans. But that doesn’t mean they go in one end and come out the other. In fact, some of the greatest health benefits that you will find in your diet come from the processing of these complex polysaccharides through specialized enzymes provided by your gut microbiota[i].

It is this dependence on our gut microbiome for food processing that creates issues such as food sensitivity. A loss of balance or damage to the gut microbial ecosystem, which we refer to as dysbiosis (and others may call “leaky gut”), has been clearly associated with IBS and even with intestinal gas production[ii]. Therefore, our treatment plan to address gas and bloating in patients who suffer from food sensitivities should aim to optimize gut health and correct any dysbiosis.

Low hanging “fruit” in this scenario is the use of probiotics. There are now numerous studies to suggest that probiotics may be beneficial for intestinal bloating. Some specific strains that have been shown to be beneficial in studies include: Lactobacillus plantarum[iii], which by the way is also found in fermented sauerkraut; Bifidobacterium infantis[iv]; and Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis[v].

So what is the best probiotic for food sensitivities? One might restrict yourself to the probiotics studied in the above studies, but my personal belief is that the ideal probiotic would contain not only the species of bacteria demonstrated to have a benefit, but would also contain a diverse mix of multiple other strains. The reason being that we previously discussed the potential diversity of the complex polysaccharides in our diet. We need a diversity of bacteria to help facilitate food processing, and in a number of studies a mixture of several strains of probiotics has outperformed single strains[vi].

Genuine Health’s advanced gut health probiotic contains all 4 of the aforementioned strains: Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis. It also contains 11 other strains. Other advantages of advanced gut health probiotic are the delayed release capsule to deliver maximum bacteria where they’re supposed to go and the blister pack to protect the probiotics from humidity prior to use. As an added benefit, they’re non-GMO, vegan, and free of the major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, wheat/gluten and peanuts.)

While we have a long way to go in terms of understanding food sensitivities and the best way to treat them, it’s nice to know that there are high quality probiotics available that have the potential to bring relief from the gas and bloating.

 

Whether or not you have constipation, bloating, gas or food sensitivities, you CAN improve your digestive health. Improving your digestive health is one of the best ways to improve your overall health—from proper assimilation of nutrients to improving how you feel after a meal (plus so many other benefits). Check out Part 4 of Ask Dr. B, The Gut Health, where Dr. B shares 5 tips to improve your digestion. But be warned, there’s no one-size-fits-all or silver bullet for gut health. But what Dr. B shares are simple tips that will go a long way to improving your digestion (and overall gut health).

READ: Want Better Digestion? Let a Gastroenterologist Tell You How to Get It

Other articles in Ask Dr. B, The Gut Health MD:

READ: A Gastroenterologist Takes on the Top Cause of Gas and Bloating from His Clinic
READ: FODMAPs Explained by a Gastroenterologist

 


Sources:

[i] PLoS One. 2012; 7(6): e28742.
[ii] Gastroenterology. 2007 Jul;133(1):24-33
[iii] Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 May;95(5):1231-8.
[iv] Gastroenterology. 2005;128:541–551
[v] J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011;45:518–525
[vi] Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Nov 15;96(3):219-33.; Eur J Nutr. 2011 Feb;50(1):1-17.