Eco Living Magazine presents:
Biology of Probiotics
Bacterial Microflora of the Intestine
The endogenous microflora of the colon are abundant and diverse, comprising 17 families, 45 genera, and over 400 species. Bacterial concentrations in the colon are more than 2 billion cells per gram of colon content. Approximately 80 percent of the dry weight of the feces is made of bacteria, 50 percent of which are live. Within this environment, about 30 species of bacteria are predominant and may affect the overall digestive metabolism, while the others are present in much smaller quantities3.
Ninety-nine percent of the human intestinal flora is made up of anaerobic bacteria, principally Bacterioides, Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium, and Propionobacterium species.4The particular mix of bacteria in an individual’s intestine is influenced by the specific metabolic environment, depending on factors that include age, diet, pH, intestinal motility, secretions, mucus, and the immune system. Some bacterial species reside in the intestinal tract, while others only establish colonies for brief periods. Both are important to overall intestinal health.
Important bacteria that reside in the gastrointestinal tract include:
including B. longum, B. bifidum, B. infantis, and B. breve
including L. rhamnosus and L. acidophilus.
Important transient intestinal microflora include:
Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus
including B. laterosporus and B. subtilis
Anaerobic: Growing, living, or occurring in the absence of molecular oxygen.
3 Famularo G, De Simone C, et al. Traditional and high potency probiotic preparations for oral bacteriotherapy BioDrugs 1999 12(6).
4 Lewis SJ, Freedman AR. Review article: The use of biotherapeutic agents in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disease. Aliment Pharmacol
Ther 1998 12:807-822.
Physiologic Roles of Endogenous Digestive Microflora
The endogenous digestive microflora have been found to play key roles in maintaining health through three main functions:
Several metabolic functions are mediated by the intestinal microflora. These are listed in Figure 1 and summarized below.
Figure 1: Metabolic Functions of Endogenous Intestinal Microflora
The intestinal microflora contribute to the digestive process by secreting enzymes that help break down foods that are not digested in the stomach. They ferment carbohydrates, such as starches, dietary fibers, and oligosaccharides, through the process of anaerobic metabolism. The bacterial enzymes break down these substances rapidly, producing end products that include gases, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), branched chain fatty acids, ethanol, and ammonia. These products have nutritive functions, i.e., some SCFAs provide energy for colon cells, liver cells, and peripheral tissues. The SCFA lactic acid provides up to 70 percent of the energy required by intestinal epithelial cells.
Intestinal microflora also contribute to the breakdown of proteins and fats. Through their role in fat metabolism, intestinal flora participate in the regulation of blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. In animal models intestinal bacteria have been shown to play a role in the metabolism of primary bile acids and cholesterol.
Intestinal bacteria are also involved in the production of several vitamins, including vitamin K and several B vitamins. The absorption and utilization of these vitamins is variable.
Fermentation: The anaerobic enzymatic conversion of organic compounds, especially carbohydrates, to simpler
Oligosaccharide: A type of carbohydrate.
There is substantial evidence that intestinal microflora provide protection against infection and that disturbance of the microflora can increase susceptibility to infection. Within hospitals, antibiotic treatment is the most common cause of a disruption in the intestinal microflora balance, which can lead to diarrhoea, especially that caused by the pathogen Clostridium difficile.5 Intestinal microflora limit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the intestinal tract by competing with them for nutrients and space. They also produce substances, including lactic acid and other organic acids, that acidify the pH of the intestine, creating a less hospitable environment for pathogens. In addition, intestinal microflora produce substances that act like antibiotics, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
Endogenous microflora play an important role in the development and homeostasis of the intestinal immune system. The presence of these bacteria is essential for the maturing of the immune system and the development of the normal morphology of the intestinal mucosa.
5.Lewis SJ, Freedman AR. Review article: The use of biotherapeutic agents in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disease. Aliment Pharmacol
Ther 1998 12:807-822.
Conditions that Disturb Microflora
The endogenous intestinal microflora are maintained in a delicate balance that can be upset by many factors. When the balance is disturbed by the use of antibiotic therapy, for example, the consequences can include overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria with development of diarrhea and other symptoms. Disorders such as IBD and IBS have been associated with lower concentrations of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
Conditions that can adversely affect the intestinal microflora are listed in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Factors that Disturb the Balance of Intestinal Microflora
Diverticulosis: The presence of diverticula, pouches or sacs, in the colonic mucosa through the muscular layers of the
Achlorhydria: Absence of hydrochloric acid from maximally stimulated gastric secretions.
In addition, dietary factors that can reduce intestinal microflora include:
Chlorine added to drinking water
Meats with residues of antibiotics added to their feed
Pesticide and herbicide residues in produce
When the balance of endogenous microflora is upset, conditions that may result include:
Overgrowth of pathogenic microorganisms
Impaired intestinal motility
Digestive disturbances that may become chronic
Increased susceptibility to infection.
Increasing evidence demonstrates that these conditions may be improved with the use of appropriate probiotic therapy.
Oral probiotic therapy has been associated with a variety of health benefits by restoring the balance of beneficial intestinal microflora. For maximum effectiveness, a probiotic preparation needs to be taken in adequate amounts and include several species of beneficial bacteria. The strains of bacteria used must be able to survive gastric acidity, adhere to the intestinal epithelial cells, and at least temporarily colonize the intestine. Since probiotic bacteria do not permanently colonize the host, they need to be ingested on a regular basis to provide continuing health benefits.6
Dietary sources of beneficial microflora include mother’s milk, raw fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut, and fresh, raw, and organically grown vegetables and fruits. Additionally, numerous preparations of probiotics are available with varying numbers of species and bacterial concentrations. Traditional probiotics have used low concentrations of viable bacteria and usually not more than two or three bacterial species. These preparations have a low probability of colonizing the gastrointestinal tract nd altering the ecological, nutritional, metabolic, and immunologic microenvironment of the endogenous microflora.7
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are the most commonly used bacteria in probiotic preparations. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most common species used, often as a single-strain probiotic.Streptococcus salivarius ssp. thermophilus is also common in probiotic preparations.
6 Famularo G, De Simone C, et al. Traditional and high potency probiotic preparations for oral bacteriotherapy BioDrugs 1999 12(6).
Bacterial Therapy for Treatment of Intestinal Diseases
Probiotics have been studied for the treatment or prevention of various gastrointestinal and systemic diseases. While the results of studies are varied due to the different strains and concentrations of bacteria used, many have shown that probiotic bacteria are effective in managing certain acute diarrhoeal diseases, and investigators have reported that certain Lactobacillus strains seem to have protective immunomodulating and bowel flora-manipulating properties9. A potential problem in evaluating the effectiveness of probiotics has been the use of preparations containing low concentrations of viable bacteria, commonly only one strain. Most studies have not shown probiotics to be effective, primarily due to using only a single bacterial species and too low of a concentration of bacteria. The effectiveness of probiotics in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea has been investigated in several studies. In some of these studies, concurrent administration of bacterial therapy with antibiotic therapy reduced frequency or duration of diarrhea10.
Gastrointestinal disorders for which bacterial therapy has been beneficial are listed in Table 3.
9 Schultz M, Sartor RB. Probiotics and inflammatory bowel diseases. Am J Gastroenterol 2000 Jan;95(1 Suppl):S19-21.
10 Lewis SJ, Freedman AR. Review article: The use of biotherapeutic agents in the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disease. Aliment Pharmacol
Ther 1998 12:807-822.
There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence indicating that diet supplementation with live probiotic bacteria may confer a significant health effect on the host when those bacteria are consumed in “adequate” amounts. In fact, one important problem is that more then 400 bacterial species are thought to be present in the normal intestine, with bacterial concentration as high as 1011 bacteria per gram in the colon (equivalent to one thousand billion bacteria per gram). This implies that only “high-potency” probiotic products, i.e., those that contain at least a comparable number of live bacteria per gram of product, can be expected to modify the bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract in terms of quantitative and qualitative composition. Most of the probiotic products currently available on the market contain small concentrations of live bacteria per gram of product, and this significantly limits their efficacy.
Recently, two clinical studies conducted in individuals diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome who experienced significant abdominal bloating, showed a significant improvement in abdominal bloating in the VSL#3 treated group as compared to baseline, as well as compared to the placebo group25,26. Moreover, a study has shown that VSL#3 treatment may protect against the risk of radiation-induced diarrhea27. Unlike antibiotic therapy, which reduces the numbers of beneficial intestinal bacteria, VSL#3 increases
the concentrations of beneficial intestinal bacteria in patients with pouchitis and ulcerative colitis.
VSL#3 is a high-potency preparation that is greatly enriched in lactic acid bacteria, both in terms of bacterial concentrations and the number of bacterial strains. This preparation has a greater potential for clinical effectiveness than traditional probiotics, which typically contain low concentrations of no more than two or three bacterial strains and often contain only one strain31.
25 Kim HJ, Camilleri M, Mc Kinzie S, Lempke MB, Burton DD, Thomforde GM, Zinsmeister AR. A Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Probiotic,
VSL#3, on Gut Transit and Symptoms in Diarrhea-predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Alim Pharmacol Ther 2003 17:895-904.
26 Kim HJ, Vazquez Roque MI, Camilleri M, et al. Thomforde G & Zinsmeister AR. A randomized controlled trial of probiotic combination VSL#3 and
placebo in irritable bowel syndrome with bloating. Neurogastroenterol Motil 2005 17:1–10.
27 Delia P, Sansotta G, Donato V, et al. Prophylaxis of Diarrhoea in Patients Submitted to Radiotherapeutic Treatment on Pelvic District: Personal
Experience. Dig Liver Dis 2002 34:S84-86.
31 Famularo et al. Traditional and high potency probiotic preparations for oral bacteriotherapy. BioDrugs 1999 Dec: 12 (6): 455-470.
More than 400 bacterial species are thought to be present in the normal intestine (equivalent toone thousand billion bacteria per gram). Therefore, only high-potency preparations, such as
VSL#3, can be expected to modify the bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract in terms of
quantitative and qualitative composition.
VSL#3 is different from other probiotic preparations in the following respects:
Number of bacteria:
VSL#3 contains 450 billion lactic acid bacteria per packet, compared with most currently available probiotic preparations, which contain small concentrations of live bacteria per gram, significantly limiting their efficacy.
Number and type of strains:
Each packet of VSL#3 contains eight species of lactic acid bacteria,
compared to other probiotic preparations.
The patent for VSL#3 is for any combination of eight bacteria, providing
flexibility in selecting bacterial strains that provide the maximum effectiveness.
Clinically proven efficacy:
Although many studies of probiotic therapy have been done, few show consistent benefit from traditional preparations. High-potency VSL#3 has been proven to be effective in treating pouchitis, ulcerative colitis, and IBS.
Where Science & Nature Work Together.
By Diedre Ellis
“generally speaking a colonic is often a relaxing and pleasant experience”
The essential process known as a colonic or an enema has been with us for hundreds of years and its association with faeces has not been kind to its public profile but with the technological advancements in the equipment and the real improvements in practitioner training – a colonic is now often the beginning of a beneficial educational process about your own health and wellbeing.
Many people are often frightened that experiencing Colonic Hydrotherapy will be embarrassing or that the procedure is painful, often we fear the worst when we are unsure of what to expect.
A colonic is not much different than going to the toilet, with an open system the therapist does not need to be present all the time, and I find that most of my clients are very relieved that they can release on their own. The unique design of the Libbe bed means that there is absolutely no odour or mess, you easily insert the tube yourself, and you are completely covered during the whole procedure. So with this in mind there is no need to be embarrassed.
It is natural to be fearful and worried that it may be a painful experience; generally speaking a colonic is often a relaxing and pleasant experience. Of course your colonic is influenced by your own reaction to something new, your general health, and any previous experience. Most people are amazed that there initial perception was nothing like the actual colonic.
Most people don’t experience any pain during a colonic, just a feeling of fullness, however a few people may experience a little discomfort especially during the first colonic, generally in the form of minor cramping, this is caused by trapping of gas and the body trying to eliminate waste. The best way to reduce this comfort is to relax, deep breathe and some very gentle massage.
There are some contraindications to having a colonic, that is why a detailed health history is always taken on your initial appointment, and it is always advisable to ask your therapist for advice if you are concerned at all about any health issues or current medication that you may be taking.
Colon hydrotherapy, also known as colonics and colon irrigation, has been used, in some form, for over 3500 years. Colon hydrotherapy is an easy and proven method for cleansing the bowel. Many of us suffer regularly as a result of a poor functioning bowel. Common symptoms indicating colon dysfunction can include constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal cramping, nausea, bad breathe and excessive flatulence, plus more serious bowel conditions like irritable bowel and inflammatory bowel disorders. Other symptoms include fatigue, headache, skin problems, memory lapse, increased stress and irritability, poor circulation, joint pain, respiratory problems and weight issues.
There are many positive reasons for having a colonic
Waste material, especially that which has remained in the colon for some time (eg impacted faeces, dead cellular tissue, accumulated mucous and parasites) poses several problems. This matter can have a very sticky quality to it and over time can develop a coating on the lining which can build up and harden into plaque, in some people this can be up to an inch thick, this not only narrows the diameter of the bowel, causing problems with elimination but also hinders the absorption of essential nutrients, and encourages the growth of parasites, bacteria, fungi and yeasts. * Once this unwanted material is removed the bowel can begin to function the way nature intended. In a sense a colonic is a rejuvenation treatment.
The colon absorbs liquids and other elements through its walls and into the blood stream and lymph, which is then carried to the liver for processing, if there is a build up in the colon (most people can store between 2-10kg of faecal waste), then putrefaction and fermentation occurs and this can pass into the blood stream as poisons, which can affect any part of you body depending on your weaknesses. These toxins compromise your immunity and place stress on your detoxification organs.
Colonics are a way of exercising the bowel muscles. The build up of these waste materials, and our western life style have caused our bowels to lose their muscle tone, this further hinders our ability to eliminate effectively. The gentle filling and empting of the colon improves peristalsis (muscular contraction) movement, and triggers the nerve reflexes that trigger our desire to go to the toilet. It’s like a gym workout for the bowel.
Colonics help to reshape the bowel. The gentle action of the water, coupled with abdominal massage helps eliminate bulging pockets of waste, and narrowed, spastic constrictions finally enabling the bowel to resume its natural state.
Additional benefits of a colonic include, stimulation of reflex points that are associated with corresponding areas in the body, thus improving our general wellbeing, Colonics also help release old emotions that are often stored in the solas plexus and our gut. Colonics also have the ability to start you on a very beneficial educational process about your own health and wellbeing.
Is Colon Hydrotherapy more effective than in-house enemas?
The basic difference is that you have access to a lot more water during a hydrotherapy session, approx 20-30 litres, compared to 2 litres that your average enema holds. For reasons stated above you receive a much more effective cleanse with a professional hydrotherapy session. Often the number one goal is cleansing and improving muscular tone, Colon hydrotherapy sessions are extremely effective at achieving this. Enemas done well can also be very effective, but they require a lot of time and patience, as well as some know how. They are however very cost effective.
What physically happens during colonic hydrotherapy?
Here are two common systems utilised in Colonic Hydrotherapy Clinics:
LIBBE METHOD OF HYDROTHERAPY
The LIBBE system is an open unit where filtered, UV, sterilized and temperature controlled water is gently introduced into the colon. This water is gravity fed into your lower bowel via a pencil thin tube that is introduced by the client in privacy. This type of tube provides an amazing level of comfort compared to some other type of systems. All equipment is FDA approved and for single use only, ensuring your total safety at all times.
During a typical colonic, approximately 30 litres of water will be transported into and out of the colon, you will experience several fills and releases of water during the procedure, this ebbing and flowing gently begins to soak and soften the faecal matter, allowing debris, gas and mucous to be eliminated. A good colonic is capable of removing the equivalent of about 10 normal bowel movements, and further treatments can remove even more substantial amounts.
A fully certified therapist will assist you throughout the whole process, or if you prefer you can be left in complete solitude, the choice is entirely up to you. Each session takes 40-45 minutes but you need to allow 60 minutes.
The frequency of visits varies from person to person and depends on your goals, medical history and intestinal health. I will review your medical history with you, offer my recommendations, but the choice is always yours.
However, generally speaking I recommend three sessions to begin with, the first two within two days and the third a few days later. The reason for this is because there is over a metre of large bowel to cleanse and this in my experience requires a minimum of three sessions to cleanse the entire large bowel. A restful ambience created by soft lighting and relaxing music allows you to completely relax during your session. At the end of each session you receive a nourishing shake or electrolyte drink plus a probiotic to help replace the beneficial bacteria.
For more info email@example.com
BRUnelle Method of Colon Hydrotherapy
The Brunelle system of colon hydrotherapy is unique. Small amounts of oxygen infused water, is gently pulsated (massaged) against the internal wall of the colon, section by small section until the whole colon is stimulated. There is no ‘guesswork’; the equipment is designed, to take the water exactly where it is needed. The pressure used during the colonic is lower than when the colon is defecating.
Another unique feature of the Brunelle method is the temperature of the water is altered to help in the stimulation of the colon to release waste.
Thus leaving the liver and other organs to get on with what they do best, without interference from a toxic colon and toxic blood.
The results of colon hydrotherapy treatment have an effect on the whole body. It can benefit the entire system, including the mind, giving better health and vitality.
The health of the rest of your body is directly dependent on the health of your colon.
To learn more about how to be a colon therapist in the Brunelle method of colon hydrotherapy visit www.australianhealth.com
*Editor’s Notes: Good bacteria are also attracted to clean areas, so cleaning out the nasties can actually allow the good bacteria to populate. Supplements can be helpful to speed the breakdown of bad bacteria and the re-generation the good. Probiotics can be very helpful in the regeneration of the good guys.
Text box: (Lisa: pls make it very visible – start burst sort of visible) For more info and to find a clinic near you turn to the resource guide on page 109 for clinic profiles.
©Eco Living Magazine
Eco Living Magazine presents:
Heading: Probiotics – Fermenting For Life.
Intro: We are not alone. In fact, we are hosts to trillions of micro-organisms, happily munching on our waste products and doing a sterling job within our digestive system.
It may come as a bit of a shock to those of us with obsessive compulsive cleaning tendencies, that killing all the tiny invisible bugs is not a really good idea. Bacteria are all around us, within us and performing vital tasks for our health and the health of this planet. Of course, like everything in existence, there are good and bad bacteria, not intrinsically bad but just bad for humans – and probably quite good for something else. The good bacteria, (or gut flora), are involved in a myriad of useful functions – such as fermenting unused energy substrates, producing vitamins for us, preventing the growth of bad bacteria, producing hormones to help us store fats, and improving our immune functioning. If we did not have all these bacteria munching away our bodies would be unable to digest many of the carbohydrates that we consume – like certain starches, fibres, proteins, and sugars like lactose. Studies with animals indicate that we may need to eat 30% more calories to maintain our stable body weight without the helpful presence of gut flora. The good bacteria transforms carbohydrates into short chain fatty acids, and these are able to be processed by our cells into nutrition and energy. Lactic and acetic acid are also produced by this saccahrolytic fermentation, and they are used by our muscles. There are numerous other positive functions supported by good bacteria in our systems.
Bacteria have also been shown to be implicit in preventing allergies (which are an over reaction of the immune system to non-harmful antigens). Research into children with allergies has confirmed that the make-up of their gut flora is different to those without allergies. The role that bacteria play in training our immune systems to respond to antigens is the key point in understanding this. A baby inside its mother is bacteria free, and develops its gut flora through birth and breast feeding initially.
By the second year of life the infant’s faeces contains a similar amount of bacteria as an adult. The prevalence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in our western societies has been linked to our obsession with hygiene. Our predilection for kitchen and bathroom cleaning sprays has “über- sanitised” our homes, and has thus lowered the absorption – and the variety – of useful bacteria available in the colon to break down waste material. The lack of breastfeeding for the baby boomer generation has also contributed to this situation. Not to mention the pharmaceutically driven overuse of antibiotics that has killed off gut flora in exceptional amounts. The inverse of this occurs in developing countries, and there is no sign of IBD at the rates that we experience it here in the West.
Probiotics, meaning literally “for life”, can help with IBD and other conditions associated with bacteria levels, which are out of balance or missing vital components. Originally discovered by science at the beginning of the twentieth century, before being named ‘Probiotics’ in 1953, it has been defined by Dr Roy Fuller (author of Probiotic’s in Human Medicine) as, ” a live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.” Of course, sour milk and yoghurt have long been part of healthy regimes employed by cultures around the globe. The naming of particular strains by science is as much about recognizing effective natural approaches to nutrition, as it is about reinventing the wheel and claiming credit for it. Lactobacillus Acidophulis is probably the best known probiotic strain but there are many more including the Bifodobacterium family, the rest of the large Lactobacillus family and Escherichia Coli. Many of these are now available in supplement form, having been combined to form effective treatments for many bowel complaints, helping with lactose intolerance, some cholesterol reduction, improving immune function and lowering blood pressure. There is a large and still growing body of scientific evidence, indicating that diet supplementation with live probiotic bacteria may confer a significant health effect on the host, when those bacteria are consumed in “adequate” amounts. In fact, one important problem is that more then 400 bacterial species are thought to be present in the normal intestine, with bacterial concentration in the colon equivalent to one thousand billion bacteria per gram. This means that only “high-potency” probiotic products, i.e., those that contain at least a comparable number of live bacteria per gram of product, can be expected to modify the bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract in terms of quantitative and qualitative composition. Consult your natural health practitioner for advice on which probiotic supplement is best for your particular condition.
©Eco Living Magazine.
Our Health: Is the TGA helping or hindering our journey to better health?
By Sudha Hamilton
Is protection, censorship & control the way?
Who will make the necessary investment in nutraceuticals & super foods to satisfy the regulatory bodies?
I think to begin this topic we need to define what “health,” actually is.
What is health?
“1.The state of being well in body or mind. 2. A person’s mental or physical condition. 3. Soundness, esp. financial or moral.” (Aust Concise Oxford Dictionary)
Health is most often defined negatively as an absence of disease & this is probably closer to the paradigm that encapsulates our modern health system in this country. I think we, as a community need to find a more comprehensive & sophisticated definition of health before we can actually move to a state of overall greater health. A better definition I came across is this one from the nursing dept at a training institute in the United States:
“Health is a unity and harmony within the mind, body and spirit which is unique to each person, and is as defined by that person. The level of wellness or health is, in part, determined by the ability to deal with and defend against stress. Health is on a continuum with movements between a state of optimum well-being and illness which is defined as degrees of disharmony. It is determined by physiological, psychological, socio-cultural, spiritual, and developmental stage variables.”
I particularly like the reference in this definition to the “uniqueness” of each person & the encompassing acceptance of health as a continuum moving between different states at various stages of our lives. The more that we can move to respecting & treating the health of each individual rather than basing our health policy on generalised statistical medicine the greater satisfaction that we all will draw from our health system. Our doctors & health administrators need to stop treating us like cattle or other so called dumb animals, we are not bodies without minds or souls. It is the narrowly defined “universality,” in the laws of science, which has, in my opinion, condemned modern western medicine to always treat the body not the person. Why does an effective treatment always have to be reduced down to what works for everybody or at least a majority of “bodies?” The lowest common denominator will always be precisely that – the lowest. Why can’t we look with more inclusive eyes at the amazing variety of people & their responses to various treatments, be they nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals or so called super foods?
The increasingly aggressive standpoint of the Australian government’s Therapeutics Goods Administration in challenging health claims made by those in the business of selling these natural substances can be partially understood as a means to protect certain vulnerable sections of the community, those who are sick with terminal & incurable conditions that do not readily respond to those treatments proffered by our doctors & hospitals, & who may be swayed by the testimonials of others who have cured themselves through diet & directly or indirectly through the consumption of a particular natural substance. Therefore, perhaps avoiding treatments recommended by the state in favour of a more natural approach, that may or may not shorten their life expectancy.
This protection for a small minority of people, through strictly enforced censorship based on the premise of science’s lowest common denominator, condemns the rest of the community to ignorance of the health benefits of these substances. Why? Because it is money in our capitalistic economies that drives information, education & research & if these natural health manufacturers & distributors cannot advertise their products then they cannot sell them & the information dries up. It also makes the task of sharing some new healthy discovery a lot harder now & the province of big companies, as it is often too expensive for the smaller player now to enter the commercial arena due to the onerous investment now needed. Do I personally think the majority of Australian business’ involved in selling health supplements genuinely believe that their products contribute to creating better health for those in the community that purchase & use them? In my experience I would say yes. Of course there are also always a small number of business people who exploit demand without a view to the totality of consequences in their pursuit of profits, like the owners of the Pan Pharmaceutical Company who were suspended by the TGA in 2003. However one rotten apple does not make the whole apple industry shonky. We need to be careful that greater regulation does not choke the creativity out of the natural health industry & leave it in the hands of a few with enormous vested interests.
The current lack of definitive western scientific proof for many of the health claims made by many of the people involved in selling things like Goji juice & berries, is due I think to a combination of circumstances. Firstly it is a relative new phenomenon here in the west & there has not really been the time or the money that needs to be invested in these trials but I see signs that is now coming. Secondly, that inertia, has also been fuelled by a general disinterest by the medical/scientific fraternity in testing natural substances when there is far more money to be made in the development of artificial pharmaceuticals that can by copy righted for exclusive income generation. Who funds most tests = pharmaceutical companies. This lack of investment in nutritional science also leads to relatively poor levels of understanding about this field & question marks over whether the right queries are being framed in studies into these substances. Which brings us back to timing & the fact that we are on the threshold of an exciting new era of nutritional understanding & its impact on our quality of life.
Can we empower people to take responsibility for their own health? Does the existing established medical fraternity want people to take back that power? Is it happening anyway in some sort of quiet revolution? All questions that arise when I am faced with this ongoing conundrum about whether a super food is really that or in fact more snake oil, as many of our health legislators would have us all believe. Let’s be blunt, many doctors still think that taking vitamin supplements are a waste of time & money. Self- interest drives much of our world, be it in health or elsewhere, the question is who is driving the TGA? Is it medical experts who have had much of their research funded by pharmaceutical companies? Do we want to end up with a few vitamin giants supplying our supplement market, who are in fact owned by pharmaceutical corporations? Which is pretty much where we are now in this country. Is big business always going to sell us the “good oil?” And where are our passionate modern “shaman” going to put their healing knowledge & energy now? Lots of interesting questions, that we all could be asking our elected representatives in the days ahead. It will be fascinating to see how things continue to unfold & where the power will reside in the ongoing maintenance of our health.