Because I do so much work with enzymes
and probiotics, I got to thinking about how
they may apply to sports and sports medicine, from a natural
product perspective. In my book, The
I covered everything from Autism to Yeast
infections, but really did not discuss sports. I suppose that
will have to come in the second edition.
Probiotics and Enzyme Therapy
Letter for Doctors and Patients, July 2003
At first, it didn't seem like
a logical fit, but as I gave it more thought a nice picture
arose. I would like to talk
about BOTH enzymes and probiotics and how they can relate to
Let's start with the enzymes.
It is well documented that strong proteases such as bromelain
can have a wonderful impact
on inflammation (by decreasing it). The wonderful thing about
enzymes is they are multitalented, if I may speak anthropomorphically,
in that they can also break down inflammatory mediators. I know
that bromelain and curcumin have traditionally been used for
this in the naturopathic field. I believe these still are wonderfully
synergistic compounds. It could be argued that some of the naturally
inherent enzymes present in probiotics could also help with this,
However, it might be a bit of a stretch, since one needs such
a high degree of enzyme activity to actually produce the anti-inflammatory
effects. It makes much more sense to take large oral doses with
food. The digestion process begins almost immediately if water
is present and the food itself provides a physical barrier for
the enzymes (and probiotics) as they traverse the harsh gastric
Another fantastic function of bromelain is the debridement of
wounds.2 Some of us engage in sports where we often suffer breaks
to the skin (I personally am into martial arts to this happens
all the time). Adding a little bromelain to the scab helps clear
it away without picking it and reopening the wound and potentially
creating a scare. I am sure my wife will attest to the fact that
I am constantly being gashed with various weapons we use in the
dojang (Korean term for martial arts studio) and as the scab
forms, bromelain is a very nice way of treating the healing wound
so a minimal scare forms.
As for probiotics, many of us engage in sports activities not
just for the enjoyment, but also as a form of exercise to assist
with weight management. In my recent book on probiotics, I explain
that probiotics are actually a wonderful adjuvant to any weight
control program. Please allow me to explain.
When we ingest food, there are a set number of calories in that
food. Those calories are assumed to be used by the body, for
its various processes, and when present in excess, as they often
are, they are used to make fat. However, that we now know that
is not totally true. There are other factors at work in the body
than just the nutrients being absorbed through the intestines.
Probiotics can play a large role in the big picture and we can
use that information advantageously.
In fact, there are more microorganisms living in the human
gastrointestinal tract (GI) than there are cells of the human
body. That may not mean a lot at first, but if you stop and think
about it, it will be come clear that if we take large numbers
of probiotics with each meal, much of that food is going to be
digested by the probiotics and not by us. Simply put, by adding
in probiotics, we reduce the calories we expose our bodies too.
When I say large numbers of probiotics, I mean well over 20-30
billion and there are a few supplements now that contain such
numbers. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that in the next
five years, there will be many more supplements with 20-100 billion
live probiotic cells in a capsule, or sachet, or whatever the
delivery system is. Off-hand, I know at least three companies
that are doing this.
Is it safe, well, when one consumes homemade yogurt, believe
it or not, the actual count of probiotics in the yogurt can be
in the hundreds of billions per ml. I have seen several studies
of people taking hundreds of billions without adverse reactions.
Also, when ingesting that many probiotics,
they act as a natural laxative and assist the body's peristalsis. This has the
effect of decreasing the time the GI is exposed to the nutrients
in the food and therefore the time it has to absorb the calories.
The more probiotics one takes, the less food is actually available
for the body to make fat. The 'secret' is that one
needs large numbers and typically, for cost reasons, many manufacturers
don't want to sell these. However, this is changing as
Also, as one exercises the body produces some rather unpleasant
toxic compounds. It is thought that large numbers of probiotics
can assist with the detoxification of the body both after heavy
activity and when exposed to toxic compounds such as organic
Because many of the probiotics actually
form lactic acid, it seems product to use some that produce
other products, such as
short chained fatty acid that are actually beneficial to certain
cell types, such as those lining the colon. The bifidobacteria
suite this bill very well. In fact, I'm not alone in suggesting
that probiotics can benefit D-lactic acidosis.4
There is also more to the detoxification
issue. People who exercise may be trying to lose weight and/or
detoxify their bodies, and
probiotics can be supportive of both these processes. We know
that in women especially, excess estrogen (i.e. that manufactured
both by the body and also ingested through hormone-tainted foods
-- meat and dairy especially) is stored in the fat tissue if
the body cannot properly excrete it. (I'm not sure if this is
true, but I'd guess that men's adipose tissue would also have
excess stores of estrogen if high quantities were consumed through
the diet.) I was discussing this issue with a naturopathic physician,
Dr. Stephanie Hoener who had a rather valuable insight I would
like to share.
When a woman
begins a new exercise regimen and begins to burn off the fat,
the estrogen is liberated
and re-enters circulation.
As a result, more estrogen must be processed by the liver and
eliminated via bile through the digestive tract. We also know
that if there is an imbalanced intestinal flora in the colon,
especially yeast, these "bugs" can become pathogenic
by causing the estrogen molecules to detach themselves from the
bile and be reabsorbed into the circulation, potentially causing
further harm in the process (e.g., excess estrogen is implicated
in disorders such as breast cancer, uterine fibroids, etc.).
If, however, we have adequate probiotics in the intestinal tract,
this will prevent the abnormal overgrowth of some of these "bad
bugs" so that the estrogen/bile compounds can be properly
eliminated via the feces.
We can extend this to hypothesize that *any* lipophilic environmental
toxin (which is most of them, since most are lipophilic) can
be liberated into circulation when people burn fat during exercise,
and therefore we need to encourage proper elimination pathways
by ensuring adequate colon flora, and by stimulating digestive
enzymes for bile production so that the bile can bind onto these
toxin-containing fats and eliminate them through the stool.
Another aspect of exercise is that
when a person sweats, as we all know, if the skin pores are
clogged, acne can result.
Acne is basically a localized infection. There is at least one
product on the market I am aware of that addresses this issue
with probiotics. We know probiotic produce natural antibiotics.
For example acidophilus produces acidophilin5,6 and
so on. Natren addresses this issue by creating a skin lotion
out of probiotics.
As a disclaimer, they do not pay me in any way shape or form;
I just think it is a cleaver product. It is called Natasha's
Probiotic Face Cream. It contains a 'lactobacilli extract' that
I assume contains the antimicrobial activity of the probiotics.
To quote a favorite Harry Potter film of mine, "that was
bloody brilliant!" I'm not even sure if this product
is still for sale, as I picked it up while talking to them at
a trade show several years ago. It has been on my 'probiotic
shelf' since. I like to show it so I don't use it,
per se, but I rather make my own rendition for personal use and
it works just fine. Yes, even in my 30s I still get acne
from time to time, as most of us do.
Another comment on the use of probiotics
and sports, is that for those who are in sports to build lean
healthy muscle, guess
what? The meat industry has known for years that feeding animals
probiotics increases the amount lean mean and decreases the fat
associated with animal. In fact, many companies are moving away
from antibiotic use and using more probiotics in their place
as a natural antibiotic. Typically, broiler chickens,8 for example,
are sprayed with probiotics, as they prune themselves they ingest
the probiotics and this affords protection against things such
as Salmonella. We don't sell hundreds of kilograms (kgs),
to the meat processors, we sell thousands of kgs. That is how
big a deal it is for them.
We all know that heavy exercise taxes our immune system so why
not help it out. Synergistically taking probiotics with anti-inflammatory
enzymes, such as bromelain, seems a very prudent step and I try
to recommend it whenever possible. If you are a body builder,
you should pay special attention to the probiotics you consume,
especially if you are on a high protein diet as they can assist
with both digestion and bowel movements.
we are not feed-animals, but we are still similar enough for
the same rules to apply.
The same applies for other feed
animals. A probiotic regimen should be included in any serious
body-building program as it has been demonstrated to build healthy
lean muscle. I'm always a little amazed that people in
general don't know that but I guess my only reason for
knowing it is we supply the meat processors and I interact with
their R&D people all the time. As a note of caution, the
feed-animals are fed some strains of probiotics that we do not
recommend for humans because the carry antibiotic resistance
genes. I'm always saddened when I see some of those strains
appearing on product labels for products marketed to humans because
I know those people will probably become antibiotic resistant,
at least to some degree. Remember, in the 'olden days' people
used to die at 40 or 50. That was common and we now know there
are some very good reasons for it. Our average life span is now
over 76 years, let's do our part to help keep it high and
get it even higher.
When you think of probiotics, think
about immune support and digestion. Probiotics are just beneficial
bacteria that contribute
to the overall health of an organism, in this case, us. Another
way of thinking about them is as little bags of enzymes. The
number and variety of enzymes they contain is staggering and
would be impossible to replicate in an enzyme supplement. While
I often discuss enzymes, I prefer to use high doses of probiotics.
They live on and keep working and multiply, enzymes eventually 'peter
out' and you need to constantly take the enzymes. If you
are taking large doses of probiotics and you miss a meal or two,
it is really no big deal as the body still has plenty in the
intestines to protect you. However, if you are traveling, don't
miss a dose and make sure you take them before you leave for
a competition as the re-circulated air in the airplanes are taxed
to filter out all the bad bugs. How many of us have gotten sick
after flying? I bet a lot.
Add to that, that as you fly to a
competition your flying very high in the atmosphere. I'm
also a pilot so I am very cognizant of this fact because what
it means is that you are exposed to
an unusually large amount of radiation. Far more than most X-rays
these days. That is scary! The good news is that probiotics have
been show to afford protection against radiation-induced sickness.9
Similarly, one doesn't want
to get sick before or after a competition that is draining
to the body and probiotics assist
with maintaining a healthy immune system.10 Establishing a good
solid probiotic regimen should be a part of any training schedule.
It should be as common as consuming water. If possible, taking
probiotics and enzymes before, during, and after exercise is
important. The same holds true for enzymes, especially if you
are taking them for their anti-inflammatory properties. In other
papers I have explained how enzymes can and are absorbed and
r-circulated via an entero-pancreatic circulation. 11,12 It is
important to get them into the circulation so they can act right
away at sites of inflammation. I will come back to inflammation
in another papers but we are learning it is at the root of many
degenerative diseases so one wants to do as much as possible
to avoid any unnecessary inflammation. Of course, some has a
role, but keeping the participants localized is the key and the
circulating enzymes can assist with that.
1. Brudnak, Mark A. The Probiotic Solution,
Dragon Door Publications. Minneapolis MN.
2. Maurer HR.Cell Mol Life Sci 2001 Aug;58(9):1234-45 Bromelain:
biochemistry, pharmacology and medical use.
3. Brudnak, MA. Probiotics as an adjuvant to detoxification protocols.
Med Hypotheses. 2002 May;58(5):382-5. Review.
4, Day AS, Abbott GD. D-lactic acidosis in short bowel syndrome.
N Z Med J 1999 Jul 23;112(1092):277-8.
5. Zamfir M, Callewaert R, Cornea PC, De Vuyst L. Production
kinetics of acidophilin 801, a bacteriocin produced by Lactobacillus
acidophilus IBB 801.
FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2000 Sep 15;190(2):305-8.
6. Zamfir M, Callewaert R, Cornea PC, Savu L, Vatafu I, De Vuyst
Abstract Purification and characterization of a bacteriocin produced
by Lactobacillus acidophilus IBB 801. J Appl Microbiol. 1999
8. Zulkifli I, Abdulllah N, Azrin NM, Ho YW. Growth performance
and immune response of two commercial broiler strains fed diets
containing Lactobacillus cultures and oxytetracycline under heat
stress conditions. Br Poult Sci 2000 Dec;41(5):593- 7.
9. Korschunov VM, Smeyanov VV, Efimov BA, Tarabrina NP, Ivanov
AA, Baranov AE. Therapeutic use of an antibiotic-resistant Bifidobacterium
preparation in men exposed to high-dose gamma-irradiation. J
Med Microbiol. 1996 Jan;44(1):70-4.
10. Macfarlane GT, Cummings JH. Probiotics, infection and immunity.
Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2002 Oct;15(5):501-6.
11. Mark Brudnak 2000 Enzyme Therapy - Part II Townsend
Letter for Doctors & Patients. December 9:88-92.
12. Mark Brudnak 2001 Enzyme Therapy - Part II Townsend
Letter for Doctors & Patients. January.
Please feel free to contact
Mark A. Brudnak PhD, ND
957 Lake Shore Road
Grafton, WI 53024
(Wisconsin is in the Central