There's been a lot of talk on the Candida forum regarding Kefir and commercial probiotics not being able to repopulate the colon and that the only way to restore the bacteria in the colon is with fecal implants from a human donor.
What's your take on this whole topic?
I've been taking Milk Kefir and Water Kefir and I hope I'm not wasting my time and money.
No, you are not wasting your time. Yes, the bacteria can colonize the intestinal tract. There are all sorts of pouches, folds, etc where the bacteria can trap and grow. And they multiply very quick. As proof consider this. The majority of the bulk of stool are these beneficial bacteria. Yet people have bowel movement after bowel movement despite the loss of these bacteria. How is this possible? Simple, because the bacteria are constantly multiplying. So even though a large number of the bacteria are expelled during defecation the bacteria continue to multiply replacing those lost during defecation.
If we were not able to recolonize the intestines most of us would have been in a lot of trouble a long time ago. Most people at some point in their life will have taken antibiotics, either natural or pharmaceutical that will kill off most of the bacteria. If we were unable to reestablish the flora as they claim they why isn't everyone dealing with Candida overgrowth and immune suppression?
But here is more to the story. First of all there is the fact as to whether or not the probiotic source is really active. Most of the so-called live culture yogurts are not live culture at all. They were live culture at one point to make the yogurt, but the cultures are often destroyed before packaging to stop fermentation so the containers do not expand. Probiotic supplements in tablets and capsules are prone to the effects of heat and time, so they can also be dead by the time they reach the consumer if they sat in a warehouse for a long time, were exposed to heat during shipping or heat from tableting.
Another problem is that I have seen many supplements containing probiotics that also add herbs or other compounds that kill the bacteria. This is commonly done by manufacturers that try to make their products look impressive by adding everything but the kitchen sink but fail to take in to account how the different substances will interact with each other. For example, you may see formulas with probiotics then they add something like uva ursi, green tea extract, berberine herbs (goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape root), etc. that kill the flora in the product.
Next problem is that many of the bacteria are sensitive to higher stomach acid levels. This is why I recommend taking probiotics first thing in the morning or before bed when stomach acid levels are at their lowest. And following it with water will help dilute the stomach acid temporarily to give the bacteria more time to escape in to the intestines.
But this is also a reason I prefer cultured foods for a probiotic source. Not only do cultured foods provide more beneficial strains of bacteria, but it is also a numbers game. The more bacteria ingested at one time the more that will escape unharmed in to the intestines. It is like if you spray for cockroaches. If you spray 5 or 10 likely you will kill them all. If you spray a thousand some will still survive and multiply. so back to cultured foods. If you drink a whole glass of kefir you are going to get more probiotics than in an entire bottle of probiotics. And again, the more bacteria you provide the more survivors you will have to recolonize the intestines.
You cannot simply just take probiotics or cultured foods though and expect to have a healthy intestinal environment. To understand this let's go back to the point that nearly everyone has taken either natural or pharmaceutical antibiotics at some point in their life. Even if they don't take probiotics of any type afterward they can still be fine and not develop candidiasis, SIBO or IBS. Why? Because it is a numbers game again. Antibiotics DO NOT kill off all the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. There are so many beneficial bacteria in the intestines that there will always be survivors. If fed properly these bacteria will start multiplying restoring the flora to proper levels. This is why I prefer probiotics or better yet cultured foods as a "jump start" after antibiotic use, but prefer fibers and other flora building substances for the long run.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are literally thousands of different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that inhabit the intestines. When you take probiotic supplements or even cultured foods you are only replacing a very small percentage of those various species. So even their use is limited. On the other hand if you provide the flora with food you can stimulate the growth of all the intestinal flora, which makes a lot more sense than simply replacing a limited number of species.
As for the fecal transplants the concept is ridiculous and dangerous. First thing to keep in mind is that beneficial bacteria inhabit both the large and small intestine. Fecal transplants are not going to restore the bacteria to all the intestines. This can only be done safely by orally ingesting probiotics or cultured foods and feeding the flora. Second thing to keep in mind is that the feces being transplanted CANNOT be screened for all possible pathogens and parasites. And finally, not everyone has an abundance of beneficial flora. The bacteria and yeasts present will vary from person to person depending on a number of factors. So it is really a gamble on what you are getting with fecal transplants. Here are some old posts on this subject: