Vitamins & Microbes for Your Health

NDSU Microbiology
by NDSU Microbiology

Guest Blogger, Katie Thielen, VMS Undergrad

As I was sitting at home one day, my boyfriend started complaining about always having stomach aches in the morning. He said it felt like he was not able to digest his food, or like he was getting the flu. I started getting concerned and thought he should go to the doctor, but I decided to try something first. I know he is not the best of eaters; he eats junk food, late at night, high in carbs and hard to digest. I know that eating late and not being able to properly digest food can cause stomach issues, so I decided to convince him to take some vitamins, including a probiotic (a microbe, or community of microbes, or a
substance that increases beneficial microbial growth) to see if that would help. And the search began…online, of course.

I researched the types of vitamins used to treat stomach and digestive issues, and discovered that, along with a probiotic, the best vitamins would be the following: most B vitamins (to increase cell metabolism); vitamin A (for vision and immune function); vitamin C (for normal growth and development); and vitamin D (to increase nutrient absorption). Each vitamin is important to different areas of your body. Some are great for your eyes, like vitamin A, which is found in carrots. Others are good for your digestion, like vitamins B and D, which are found in animal products and the sun. We can get most of these vitamins from a daily, healthy diet, but with my boyfriend, it was not that easy. So, what supplement should I choose?

I looked at the store and read about supplements with the essential vitamins A, B, C, and D. I knew I wanted a multi-vitamin, so I would not need to buy a bunch of different bottles. The one I thought was best was the One A Day Men’s Multi-vitamin, as it included all of the ones I was looking for and much more.

But then I had to find the probiotic that would work best. I was debating between two, TruBiotic and Culturelle. Each had good properties, but I had heard good things about Culturelle from others, and I decided to go with it. But why are probiotics so important to have in your diet?

Culturelle contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, which is a bacterium that helps with improved digestion and health. It helps to reestablish the good bacteria that naturally live within your gut. It produces short fatty acid chains and vitamins, as well as reducing GI (gastrointestinal) disorders. L. rhamnosus GG aids in the immune system as well. It helps produce barriers to prevent foreign bacteria from attacking the body and aids in antigenic responses. Specifically, L. rhamnosus GG has been shown to impact the humoral and cell-mediated immune response processes. This is the most prominent bacterium in probiotics, but how does it help nearby cells?

Each microorganism uses different nutrients for food and releases different nutrients into the body. For example, Escherichia coli is a rod-shaped, Gram-negative bacterium that lives in your gut. It breaks down the food you eat, then releases vitamin K (helps make proteins) into the body. This is the only natural form of vitamin K produced, which is why taking vitamins is so important. In addition, L. rhamnosus GG uses nutrients then releases them to help feed other bacteria like E. coli.

Without vitamins and beneficial gut microbes, your body’s immune system will not have all the proper nutrients to help prevent harmful pathogens from invading. These cells need support to help keep you healthy, and if they are not healthy, you won’t be either. So, have you taken your vitamins and probiotics? My boyfriend and I have, and we feel great!

Image: CDC/ National Escherichia, Shigella, Vibrio Reference Unit at CDC

This entry is part of the MICR 354 (Scientific Writing) student-blog series.