Are Prebiotics doing you more harm than good?
I’d like to start out by saying, I love what I do and Functional medicine is absolutely the future of medicine and healthcare, healthcare, not sick care. Our world is sick and getting sicker and functional medicine doctors are the only ones that I believe can truly help.
So today we are doing a little quick post on an issue having to do with digestive health.
First I’d like to point out that most people are going about restoring their digestive health all wrong. The think if they take this or that supplement or pill that it will fix their digestive problems.
Unfortunately its not as easy or simple as taking a magic pill. There is no magic “anything”. It takes a systematic approach. You cant jump to step 4 before you get through steps 1 - 3.
If you'd like to find out more I do seminars, workshops or whatever you want to call it where we discuss this.
So today we are talking about prebiotics - That is with a p.r.e, not an o
To break it down simply is that probiotics are the good bacteria in our intestines. prebiotics are the food for the probiotics. They are also often called Fructooligosaccharides, or FOS for short. Some really good sources of FOS foods include bananas, garlic, onions, chicory, asparagus, artichoke and some grains like wheat and barley, but lets not even get into the whole wheat thing right now. Thats opening an entirely different can of worms.
Interesting tid bit - It’s been estimated that there are more bacteria in our intestines that cells in our body. Some have estimated a 10 to 1 ratio, other more a 1 to 1 ratio. Regardless, its easy to see how types and levels of bacteria can have such an effect on your health. Some joke, are we humans hosting bacteria, or bacteria hosting humans. And to throw another wrench in the works, what about all the antibiotics and antibacterial products everyone uses now. Think that has an effect on your health? Food for thought?
Ok, So there are also lot of different FOS or prebiotic supplements that are available, such as those listed at the bottom of the page. In addition many probiotics include prebiotics with good intentions. But, they may not be right for everyone.
So? Whats the problem with everyone just taking prebiotics all willy nilly like its nothing. Shouldn't it be good for everyone?
Im so glad you asked.
Ill make it short and simple. If you have digestive issues which include belching, farting, bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, heart burn, Irritable bowel syndrome or disease, crohns, ulcerative colitis, or whatever undiagnosed issue you might have, I can pretty much guarantee that you have some level of dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis - It basically means that you have too many bad bugs and not enough good bugs in your intestines. The only way to either verify and or confirm this is through running a stool analysis. Not to see is not to know.
Sometime dysbiosis can be a little like the chicken of or the egg. Which can first? Well, in this case it doesn't really matter, because you probably have it.
So most people take prebiotics because they has some sort of digestive issue right? We have already established that most likely they have dysbiosis either causing or contributing to it.
So whats the problem?
Well…lets think about this…If we have more bad bacteria than good bacteria and we are giving bacteria food, aren't we feeding the bad bacteria also?
YES and No. but thats a small no.
Now the research suggests that prebiotics and FOS’s primarily feed the good bacteria more…but….they also feed the bad. The bad bacteria tends to be partial to sugars and carbohydrates but I find that its not really too particular in what you feed it. So what you are doing is very possibly making things worse, leading to more dysbiosis or you might even over do it and give yourself SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Which is basically to much bacteria in the small intestines. Not a fun thing to deal with.
I have had a lot of patients note that probiotics and prebiotics make their symptoms worse, or they initially feel better for a couple of weeks after starting them and then things take a turn for the worse and they wish their friend had never suggested they try their miracle cure they heard about from a brothers wifes second cousins kid they swear worked. Or google MD right? Doctor google told me so!
I use prebiotics and FOS’s ALL the time in my practice. If fact, almost every patient will be on prebiotics at some point.
In my training and experience, using prebiotics all comes down to timing. Its not necessarily “if” you use them, although some wont ever use them, its more of a matter of “when” to use them. Timing is everything.
So here is a little teaser….Its step 3.
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Until next time
Im Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy
Common PRObiotics I use:
Common PREbiotics I use:
And, finally a great Pro/prebiotic I often use. When called for.
An Integrative and Functional Medicine approach to Lithium and your mental health.
Lithium deficiency is becoming more and more common. In fact, so far, when I suspect that a patient may need supplementation with lithium and run a blood test on their levels, I have not had a single patient come back with normal levels. In fact most have them have come back with “non detectable levels”, which essentially means NON. Maybe I should just start testing everyone just in case. I don't know yet. Anyway, that is a discussion for another time.
So what is lithium? Lithium is actually a metal that our bodies need in order to perform some critical functions. Most notably when it comes to mental health. For those that have heard of lithium or know someone on it they generally think of either batteries or someone that has been diagnosed with bipolar, but they aren't the only ones that can benefit from proper lithium supplementation. Let me be clear this is NOT something everyone should take. Lithium is only something you should take if you are being monitored by a trained physician regularly. High levels of lithium can be toxic.
Patients in my practice that I will test for lithium levels include anyone that has any degree of “mental issues”. This can be as small and simple as something from slight anxiety to depression, ocd, sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, adrenal fatigue, or any other condition that might have a “mental’ aspect to it. Which when you think about it can actually be a lot of thinks. There is the whole ming body connection after all.
A few of the ways that lithium is thought to work is by decreasing norepinephrine release, which is the excitatory or adrenalin hormone, and by increasing release of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, relaxed, and self-confident. It also plays an important role in our sleep, sex drive, and digestive health. This is along the lines of how SSRI’s (slective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) work. They don't make more serotonin they just make it “hang out” for a longer period, which by the way, can have multiple detrimental long term side effects, but that is for another video.
It also reduces excitatory dopamine and glutamate while at the same time increasing levels of inhibitory GABA, which gives us the calm relaxed feeling.
Another benefit of lithium is that is can help with your circadian rhythm, or how you sleep. By increasing serotonin that we mentioned earlier, serotonin is converted to melatonin at night, which triggers our sleep cycle. Viola = sleep.
There are some exciting studies that are being done regarding lithiums use in Alzheimers and other neurodegeneration diseases. So keep tuned in.
Generally we can and should try to get most of our lithium from our foods, but sometimes it just doesn't or cant happen, again that is for another video/blog. Grains and veggies are the best sources. We also get some from water and animal protein. Dairy products, sugarcane, seaweed, potatoes, lemons, eggs and Natural mineral water is also said to have a good source of lithium.
So what about lithium supplements? Do I use them in my practice? Absolutely. Should everyone take lithium supplements? Definitely not! In fact lithium can be toxic and many patients note that when they first start on lithium supplements it might make them feel a little loopy at first. We often have to start with really low doses and work our way up. This is the type of supplement that you have to be put on gradually and your levels need to be monitored. Too much of a good thing here can be really bad!
So until next time,
Be happy, be healthy.
For those that are looking for a good quality Lithium orotate, I highly recommend and routinely use this one in my private practice. Lithium Orotate.
I will stress again, it’s always best to get your levels tested first.
Generally this is a specialty test and can only be done with the recommendation from a physician.
You might want to try our test page to see if its available or give us a call to set up a virtual visit.