As our understanding of the immune system has advanced so has our appreciation for the balance of factors in the intestines. The small and large intestines play a significant role in the immune response of the entire body. Early last century, a few bold doctors proposed that the bacteria in the gut could be part of health picture of the person.
We have since come to accept that certain bacteria are not only helpful but are actually necessary for your well-being. The notion of probiotics has attracted the attention of serious research and we are beginning to see the benefits of that research now.
Healthy populations of essential bacteria have been shown to be important in normalizing secretory IgA, restoring healthy intestinal permeability, inhibiting excess yeast overgrowth, reducing general inflammation, controlling cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, reducing diarrhea and constipation and even reducing probability of colon cancer. Early attempts at cataloging the types of bacteria didn't get too far because the majority won't grow in a lab culture. It took more advanced techniques that are the result of the understanding and analysis of DNA data. These new techniques show that a healthy gut includes about 1000 different types of these synergistic or bacteria. It seems that every tiny microclimate of the intestines contains its own types of bacteria.
Antibiotics take a real toll in the health of these bacteria and therefore the health of the entire person. Those antibiotics probably saved your life but if care isn't taken to restore gut health, the results can also kill you. It appears that prolonged antibiotic therapy can eliminate most of the health-related bacteria but it doesn't kill all the intestinal bacteria. Some bacteria can remain that can weaken the intestinal wall creating pockets that can result in an abscess that can breach the intestinal wall resulting in sepsis. This sepsis or global infection has a high rate of mortality. This scenario is fairly common so you probably know someone who died or nearly died from intestinal related-problems within a year or so of this anti-biotic therapy for maybe something like an infection after a knee or hip replacement, for example.
Other effects of gut flora? Friendly bacteria supply about half our vitamin K needs and also supply significant amounts of B12, folic acid and pantothenic acid. Gut flora provide significant amounts of amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan, precursors to dopamine and serotonin.
Gut flora stimulates GI lymphatic tissue and stimulate production of helpful antibodies.
So what do you do? Step one of course is to take care of whatever infection that is threatening your life. Once you can stop the antibiotics you will need to aggressively work to repopulate the intestinal flora that is the essential bacteria that will help save your life. By being aggressive, one capsule of probiotics a day won't do it. Also just using one strain of probiotics won't get where you want to go either.
Our current recommendation is to use three different combinations of bacteria, maybe from three different companies. You might need as much as 6 of each at different times of day. For example maybe take 6 of the first type in mornings, six of the second type at lunch and six of the third type at bedtime. This will give your body at least a few different types that will help get that diversity up as quickly as possible.
The discussion was centered around treatment to recover from antibiotic therapy. The principles are also valid for anyone who has a chronic illness and/or compromise of the immune system.
The whole concept of Th1 vs Th2 is fairly complex and it isn't that easy to say that a person is Th1 or Th2 dominant.