I had the opportunity to listen to a talk given recently by Jon Vanderhoof, a pediatrician from the University of Nebraska. He was talking about the wonders and peculiarities of Lactobacillus GG and its role in digestive health.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a probiotic unlike any other because it has little “hairs”(pili) that helps it stick to the inner lining of the digestive system. It also acts as the good guy which promotes the proliferation of other good bacteria in the neighborhood and it survives stomach acidity, making it likely to reach the intestinal walls where it’s needed the most. Vanderhoof was presenting his clinical experience with the use of Lactobacillus GG in children’s gut problems and he seemed to be very pleased with the results.
It was interesting to see how researchers are approaching the role of food allergens and their role in modern diseases, a damage which doesn’t involve the classically allergic mediated reactions and its diagnostic tools with such things as a prick test. In fact, from a strictly mainstream medicine point of view, Vanderhoof explained that a host of inflammatory conditions along the digestive tube were increasingly associated with food intolerances. He gave the example of proctitis (inflammation of the rectum) as a reaction to gluten intolerance and other “idiopathic” diseases as well. He explained that gut motility issues (i.e. constipation) in small children were a result of gut inflammation due to food sensitivities. This is arguably the case for everybody else I should add! He emphasized that he was seeing children constipated as the only reaction to a milk allergy. Other less fortunate little ones were having blood on their stools and vomiting (among other things) in response to their mother’s awful diet. So of course, mothers are instructed to do an elimination diet when they are breastfeeding their babies.
Gluten also shows up in mother’s milk contributing thus to colics, failure to thrive, acid reflux, diarrhea, eczema, chronic diaper rash, vomiting, seizures and so forth. For more information see glutenfreesociety.org
The classical allergic reaction is IgE mediated (a component of your defense system) and it could send you to the emergency room for a life saving adrenaline shot. It can be that dramatic. But as classical as it may be, it is actually very rare. Most food allergens create great havoc through a non-dramatic but very harmful long-term effect.
The most common food allergens are from agricultural-based foods, either GMO or non-GMO. This is one of the reasons why a paleo or ketogenic diet can be very beneficial for a lot of folks with several different conditions or health problems.
Anyhow, the take home message is that Lactobacillus GG seems to be unique in its capacity to promote gut health and wellness in general, and that foods from the Agricultural revolution are at the root of mankind’s deteriorating health.
Vanderhoof seemed to imply that Lactobacillus GG would increase the chance that a baby would tolerate a certain food allergen better. But if the body reacts to certain foods as it does, it is probably because the food per se is very harmful and was never part of mankind’s natural diet to begin with. Arguably the case for GMOs and the so called Agricultural revolution! For more information see Origins of Agriculture – Did Civilization Arise to Deliver a Fix?
Below are some assorted studies and quotes that are relevant to the topic at hand.
IgE-mediated allergic responses to foods are the most dramatic and perhaps the most easily diagnosed type of food allergy. Non-IgE-mediated food hypersensitivity is more chronic, less acute, less obvious in its clinical presentation, and often more difficult to diagnose. It usually presents in infants between one week and three months of age with vomiting and diarrhea, although irritability, poor feeding, and failure to thrive are not uncommon. A thorough history and physical examination are often key in establishing a diagnosis of food protein hypersensitivity. In non-IgE-mediated disease, skin tests and immunological studies are not helpful. Eliminating the food allergen is the only means of dealing with a food allergy in most patients.[Vanderhoof JA.. Food hypersensitivity in children. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 1998 Sep;1(5):419-22.]
The gut contains a diverse bacterial flora that is acquired at birth and has a number of physiological functions. Administration of prebiotics or probiotics may favourably alter this gut microflora. Prebiotics are poorly digested oligosaccharides that promote the growth of desirable bacteria and may have other beneficial gastrointestinal and systemic effects. Probiotics are “helpful” human bacteria that provide a variety of health benefits when administered exogenously. Probiotics produce beneficial effects in the prevention and treatment of traveller’s diarrhoea, viral diarrhoea, and diarrhoea in day care centres. Moreover, probiotics have been shown to reduce relapses associated with Clostridium difficile, and Lactobacilli are effective in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Probiotics may also be efficacious in the treatment of gastroenteritis. Clinical studies of probiotics in inflammatory bowel disease have proved disappointing, but beneficial effects in adults with irritable bowel syndrome have been reported with Bifidobacterium infantis 35624. Lactobacilli GG reduces the incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms and gut permeability in patients with atopic dermatitis, and administration of probiotics reduces the frequency and severity of atopic eczema when administered to pregnant women and then to newborn infants. In conclusion, probiotics are effective in the treatment and/or prevention of a number of conditions, including diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome and atopic dermatitis, and the product used should be selected based on the particular indication. [Vanderhoof JA.. Probiotics in allergy management. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr.2008 Nov;47 Suppl 2:S38-40.]
“The most extensive studies of the modification of allergic reactions have been reported for atopic eczema with Lactobacillus GG as the probiotic”[…] “Randomized double-blind studies have provided evidence of probiotic effectiveness for the treatment and prevention of acute diarrhea and antibiotic-induced diarrhea, as well as for the prevention of cow milk–induced food allergy in infants and young children. Research studies have also provided evidence of effectiveness for the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea, relapsing Clostridium difficile–induced colitis, and urinary tract infections. There are also studies indicating that probiotics may be useful for prevention of respiratory infections in children, dental caries, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Areas of future interest for the application of probiotics include colon and bladder cancers, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. The probiotics with the greatest number of proven benefits are Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG and Saccharomyces boulardii.” [B.R. Goldin, S.L. Gorbach. Clinical Indications for Probiotics: An Overview. Clin Infect Dis. (2008) 46 (Supplement 2): S96-S100.]
It is estimated that ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) complicates the care of up to 30% of patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Patients with VAP have increased morbidity, mortality, and hospital costs as well as prolonged intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital lengths of stay and increased costs […] Probiotic prophylaxis of VAP using Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG appears safe and efficacious in a select population of patients who are at very high risk for contracting VAP. This therapy may also offer an opportunity to prevent related ICU complications, such as C. difficile and ICU-associated diarrhea. Ultimately, probiotics may fulfill a role in antimicrobial stewardship programs given the reductions in antibiotic consumption[Morrow LE, Kollef MH, Casale TB. Probiotic prophylaxis of ventilator-associated pneumonia: a blinded, randomized, controlled trial. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2010 Oct 15;182(8):1058-64.]
About the Author:A countryside family medicine doctor and former heart surgeon in service of the Hippocratic Oath.