This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Probiotic Supplements

The more that I've researched healing the gut, immune system, and neurological system, the more significant balancing the gut flora seems to be.  A healthy ecosystem in the gut seems to be at the foundation of a properly functioning digestive system, which is essential for metabolism to work properly.  Without a healthy metabolism the body can't reliably receive the steady stream of nutrients that it needs to function regardless of how good our diet is.  Without the proper nutrients pretty much every biochemical system in our bodies begins to breakdown, including nerve cell transmission, detoxification, immunity, regulation of gene expression, repair of injured or damaged tissue, cell membranes and DNA, and replacement of the millions of cells that die every day.  Once you realize that our bodies are made of cells, and that those cells function in the world of biochemistry, the central role of nutrients in the body becomes more clear.

Additionally, the gut flora (also called the human biome) are known to directly regulate the expression of over 200 human genes.  Pathogenic microbes are able to de-activate certain aspects of our immune system, such as some antiviral pathways and protections built into cells to keep them from becoming cancerous.  These microbes help us digest our food and produce enzymes.  They also play an essential role in maintaining the structural integrity of our GI systems.  For these and so many other reasons, restoring balance to our gut flora is essential for healing.  There are many ways of working towards this.  One of the most significant things we can do is to take probiotics in the form of either supplements or fermented foods.

Sources of High Quality Probiotics and Notes on Specific Strains:

Commercially prepared probiotics vary greatly in quality.  Many of the cheaper and more easily acquired brands, such as those commonly found at the supermarket, do not seem to have the potency of the high quality brands.  Many of the cheaper formulations also have added ingredients, such as dairy, gluten, sugar, and artificial ingredients, that people with damaged guts may need to avoid.  For this reason, our family (like many others) prefers to order our probiotics from trusted sources online, although there have been several kinds that we are able to get locally that have been helpful.

Custom Probiotics is one of the leading companies in providing a high quality, high potency product that is free of fillers and can be custom formulated  for an individual's specific needs.  The price can be high, but when compared to truly comparable products (and comparable quantities) it is actually much more reasonable.  If you call them, they will also help you figure out which strains would be best for you.  There 11-strain blend is said to help with oxalate issues and to be comparable to VSL #3, which is a probiotic specifically used to support people with oxalate issues, although they are not allowed to specifically claim this.

Their most popular blend, the CP-1 blend, contains:
L. acidophilus, 
L. rhamnosus, 
L. plantarum,
B. Lactis, 

B. bifidum.

Their 11-strain formulation contains:
L. Acidophilus, 
L. Rhamnosus,
L. Salivarius, 

L. Plantarum,
L. Casei, 

L. Lactis, 
B. Breve,
B. Infantis, 

B. Longum, 
B. Bifidum
B. Lactis.

Theralac is a newer product which has 30 billion CFUs per dose and contains 5 strains, including:
Lactobacillus acidophilus – 10 billion CFU
(Strain LA-1)
Lactobacillus paracasei – 5 billion CFU
(Strain F-19)
Lactobacillus rhamnosus – 2 billion CFU
(Strain LR-44)
Bifidobacterium lactis – 10 billion CFU
(Strain BL-34)
Bifidobacterium lactis – 3 billion CFU
(Strain Bi-07)

According to the website, Theralac does not contain: Yeast, Eggs, Corn, Soy Protein, Gluten, Wheat, Salt, or Beef Products.  It does contain lactoferrin, which is a protein derived from milk which they claim rarely upsets those with a milk allergy, but I mention it as it may be an issue for some.  Rather than being enteric coated this product uses a gel to buffer the organisms through the stomach, which they claim is superior, but I should also mention it contains sodium alginate and grape skin extract.  I think the grape skin extract may be an issue for kids on the spectrum with various food issues such as phenol intolerance.  One of the things that I like about Theralac is that it has lactoferrin, an iron-binding molecule naturally occurring in the body that gives good bacteria an advantage over bad bacteria in the gut.  To red more about lactoferrin go here.  Theralac also makes a children's version, which comes as a granular powder.

Threelac and Fivelac (sold by Global Health Trends) are formulations of soil based organisms that "eat" yeast and also help fight other pathogens.  These are non-colonizing organisms.  My family has experienced less die-off when using these compared with other anti-fungal supplements, I think because these organisms don't just out compete the yeast, they seem to actually break it down.  This comes as powder in little packets that you mix with water and drink.  It has a somewhat sweet, pleasant taste.  These formulations does contain a strep strain, enterococcus, so should be avoided by people with PANDAS.

Threelac contains:
Bacillus subtillus 500 million CFU
Enterococcus faecalis 500 million CFU
Bacillus coagulans 500 million CFU

Fivelac also contains:
Bifidobacterium longum 500 million CFU
Lactobacillus acidophilus 50 million CFU

NOTE ABOUT PANDAS-  People with PANDAS should avoid strep strains,even friendly ones,  as PANDAS is an auto-immune condition in which strep antibodies attack part of the brain.  the two strains that I know of that appear in probiotic formulations are enteroccocus and streptococcus thermophilus.  This condition is relatively common in people on the spectrum, and is a common cause of OCD, especially in children who had a sudden onset.  I believe it is also implicated in Tourette's.  S. thermophilus is almost always found in yogurt.

VSL #3 is a high-potency probiotic used by many to combat oxalate issues.  Some of the strains in it are known to help degrade oxalates in the gut.  When these organisms are present in the gut, there presence signals the body to excrete oxalate into the gut for excretion in the stool rather than through the kidneys and out via the urine, which is much easier on the body.  VSL #3 is produced by a pharmaceutical company and as such it can be prescribed by a doctor (although it can be acquired without a prescription as well), which may help with the cost.  At around $72 for 60 caps (and one dose is 2 caps) it gets pretty expensive.  The package advises people to take between 2 and 8 caps per day.  VSL #3 has been the focus of more clinical research than probiotics usually receive.

VSL#3 contains the following strains of bacteria:
Streptococcus thermophilus
Bifidobacterium breve
Bifidobacterium longum
Bifidobacterium infantis
Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactobacillus paracasei
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Klaire Labs produces a large line of probiotic supplements including very high dose formulas, powders, chewables, a special formula for use while taking antibiotics (ABx Support), a special formula to address tooth decay (Prodegin), and a formula specifically for infants.   For the specific strains in each formula, go to the site and click on the name of the formula that you are interested in.  Klaire probiotics are hypoallergenic and they are free of both gluten and dairy which makes them especially useful for people with autism.  This is one of the most informative sites of all of the probiotic companies and is worth poking around.  On the right-hadn sde of the website there is a link to download a PDF called "Making Sense of Probiotics" which "summarizes the present knowledge of probiotics, reviews their uses and applications supporting health, and answers commonly asked questions about probiotics."

Culturelle is a probiotic supplement containing only one organism, Lactobacillus GG.  This organism survives the acidity of the stomach very well and it's strength in the gut is that it multiplies very quickly, crowding out pathogenic microbes.  It is generally considered to be especially good against yeast and clostridia.  There is a dairy-free and gluten-free version and can be purchased at many supermarkets and health food stores.

Another probiotic supplement that some people have had tremendous benefit from is called Primal Defense.  It is advertised as containing soil-based organisms but the strains listed are the same as many of the other products listed on this page so I'm not sure what to make of that.  To see the strains it includes scroll down on the page. 

BioKult is the probiotic recommended for use with the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome).  It has a moderate potency of 2 billion live cells per capsule, 10 billion per gram, so that people can start at a lower dose and gradually increase the dose up to the therapeutic level in order to lessen the effects of die-off.  It has 14 strains of friendly bacteria (including s. thermophilus), which may be the most strains of any probiotic on the market.  Once you reach the therapeutic dose this probiotic can become prohibitively expensive but is god to rotate in if possible. 

BioKult contains the following strains:
1. Lactobacillus acidophilus
2. Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus
3. Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis
4. Lactobacillus casei
5. Lactobacillus helveticus
6. Lactobacillus plantarum
7. Lactobacillus rhamnosus
8. Lactobacillus salivarius ssp. salivarius
9. Bifidobacterium breve
10. Bifidobacterium bifidum
11 Bifidobacterium infantis
12. Bifidobacterium longum
13. Bacillus subtilis
14. Streptococcus thermophilus