Pigeon health

   garlic and gramms

15. 01. 2013.
Can garlic and probiotics be used together? I thought garlic was a natural antibiotic and would kill the probiotic bacteria.
Maybe we think so: what a trivial question! One that can’t be of any significance... If we think that, we are probably wrong...
Well, everybody knows that we can use plant extracts like the alkaloids of garlic, since these substances affect bacteria directly, just as antibiotics do: killing them or preventing their proliferation.
The main alkaloid of garlic is allicin. Allicin has a strong antibacterial effect against e.g. streptococci, staphylococci, pseudomonas and coli. It has an antiparasitic and antifungal effect, as well. These bacteria and parasites have certain enzymes that contain sulphur – the allicin, destroying these enzymes, can kill bacteria and parasites. Allicin destroys the enzymes of beneficial enterococci, too, thus depopulating bowel bacteria.
Keeping all these considerations in mind, in my opinion it is beneficial to give probiotics after using garlic.
I conducted a simple laboratory experiment for this topic. I took a culture medium used to make bacteria grow, a slice of garlic, one drop of pure water and a very little amount of a certain probiotic containing several strains of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
On this picture there is a Petri dish that is a special cell culture plate. (Its diameter is about 10 cm.) In the dish, there is blood agar – a gelatine-like substance mixed with chicken blood. Most of the bacteria can multiply quickly on blood agar, which is maintained at a stable temperature of 37 degrees Celsius in an incubator. A glass rod is in the photo next to the dish. We use these glass rods finely to spread a drop of the sample over the surface of agar.
So, I took a tiny bit of the probiotic, dissolved it in a drop of pure water and spread this drop over the whole surface of the blood agar. Then I took the slice of garlic, squeezed a little drop juice from it and spread this drop of garlic over half of the surface of blood agar (on the right side of it). I then placed the Petri dish into an incubator for a day – to allow the bacteria to multiply.
On the next picture we can see the result of this bacterial culturing. The countless little white dots are the colonies of bacteria – each colony the size a pinhead contains about one billion bacteria and every colony really did emerge from one bacterium (in the space of a single day!). These are beneficial bacteria, of course, since they descend from the probiotic.
No question, on the right side of the blood agar there are far fewer bacterial colonies than on the left side. So we can infer that the alkaloids of garlic block the growing of beneficial bacteria of probiotic and/or kill a lot of them.
This probiotic contains several strains of beneficial bowel bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. lactis, L. bifidus and Enterococcus faecium. I think that, of these, one or two strains are resistant to alkaloids of garlic. The garlic cannot destroy them, so they are able to survive and even multiply.
This little experiment has demonstrated that:
- the alkaloids of garlic do indeed kill a large amount of probiotic bacteria,
- if we use a probiotic that contains several different strains of bowel bacteria, the odds are that some strains among them are resistant to garlic, so they survive the alkaloids of the garlic and are able to multiply in the bowel.
What can we do?
- ask our vet to make a laboratory test with the probiotic(s) we use
- if the garlic kills our probiotic(s), or we cannot make such a laboratory test, we should not use probiotic and garlic together
- if the bacteria of our probiotic are resistant to garlic, we can use them together
- if alkaloids of garlic kill some strains of bacteria but other strains survive (as in our case), we can use them together, but afterwards we should give extra probiotic
Maybe you will say that this is all very interesting but does not have too much importance. If you say that, I am afraid you are wrong.
If we give garlic to the pigeons once a week, the alkaloids of garlic will kill some strains of beneficial bowel bacteria, so for a short while there will be slightly fewer beneficial bacteria in the intestinal canal. And then?
Indeed, it does not seem to pose so great a threat, but let us do a bit of calculation! Suppose that the efficiency and the speed of digestion will decrease one or two per cent because of the destruction of useful bowel bacteria – only one or two per cent. If the digestion and the motility of the bowel become slower, the amount of remaining excreta will grow a little – only one or two per cent – that is about half a gram (about 1/60th of an ounce). The racing pigeon’s weight will be more by half a gram.
And then? What is half a gram?
Half a gram… Let us imagine a ten thousand metre athletic race. A runner is about 72 kilograms and he is running ten kilometres. The pigeon is 400 grams and it is flying about 900 kilometres – with a half gram extra weight in its body. What extra weight should the runner carry in order for the pigeon not to be at a “disadvantage”? In other words: what extra weight would represent a proportional burden on the pigeon?
72 kilograms = 180 x 400 grams, i.e. the runner’s weight is 180 times more than the weight of the pigeon. So, if the pigeon carries an extra half gram of weight, the runner should carry 180 x 0.5 = 90 extra grams. Only 90 grams, that is three ounces – not too much, at all, for a man…
Well, a long racing pigeon flies much further than the man runs: about 90 times further. 90 grams carried 90 times further = this is 8.1 kilograms (17.82 lb)! What chances does a long-distance runner have with an 8-kilogram dumb-bell in his hand?
We can find several analogous samples and cases. For example, vitamins giving at the wrong time increase the weight of the pigeon – even by several grams, not just half a gram! Certain antibacterial agents disturb the water balance of the pigeon’s body – and it can become overweight, too.
In long run, grams become kilograms and milliseconds become minutes – the very minutes needed for success…
You can read more about this theme and others in my book Vet's Tips for Fanciers
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