Probiotics: Necessary or Just Another Fad

Last blog we discussed GERD and eating a healthy diet, as well as a few medications used to treat GERD.  We even touched on probiotics for a moment, but one of our reads screamed out “MORE!!”  (Okay so she wasn’t that demanding, but that was the basic message).

So lets start at the beginning: Our gut.  Our intestines are known as our second brain.  It contains neurotransmitters, like serotonin, just like the brain, and is very reactive to our emotions.  Our gut also controls what goes in and our of our bodies.  This means that our intestines not only control the nutrition entering into our body and eliminates waste, but also acts as a gatekeeper for bacteria and viruses, thus being an active participator in our immune system.  Our gut controls so many aspects of our health that it is imperative to keep it healthy.  This is why exercise (to keep the intestines moving) and proper nutrition (to feed our body, but also the good bacteria in our intestines) are so important.  But what role to probiotics play and what good can they do?

Antibiotics:  Antibiotics aren’t very smart.  Sure, they work great.  A couple days on antibiotics and you start feeling normal again… oh yeah, except that you feel nauseous, your intestines are all in knots, and food isn’t exactly appetizing.  This is because the antibiotics, on top of attacking your infection, have also attacked the bacteria that you need to digest.  On top of that it, if you’re a woman, the antibiotics have also destroyed your vaginal flora.  This is where those fun yeast infections creep in.  What to do?  Probiotics!

Poor diet:  If you’re trying to jump start that new diet or you’ve been naughty for a couple weeks because everyone’s birthday is in July you may be having difficulty digesting the healthier foods.  You’ve, basically, starved the bacteria in your gut avoiding the healthy foods (MURDERER!) and so now there aren’t enough bacteria to digest these new healthier foods.  What to do?  Probiotics!

Diarrhea:  I’ll be honest… this is the discussion in my job that I hate the most.  I sometimes get weekly reports on my family, friend’s, and patient’s bowel movements.  Diarrhea is the most common complaint.  Usually this is caused by something infective or questionable food (anything buffet style I file under questionable).  When you have diarrhea you don’t have time to reabsorb the water in your large intestine or properly digest your food.  Everything just moves out in as quickly as it moves in.  This means you are also losing those bacteria that should be helping you to digest.  After the infection or disagreement is over you could still have diarrhea simply because you have no bacteria to help you digest your food properly.  What to do?  Probiotics!

GERD:  Are you getting a lot of heartburn?  Your stomach might be working overtime to try to digest the food that you are eating.  This means more churning and more acid.  Try to take some probiotics for a couple weeks and see what happens.

“Stomach Flu”:  If you seem to be getting a lot of stomach bugs the bacteria that usually act as the Marines in your body may be depleted or weakened.  Remember, your intestines are where part of your immune system lives.  Part of your immune system, ironically, is bacteria.  If your bacteria have been destroyed by a bug, bowl abnormalities, or poor eating habits your immune system is at risk.  What to do?  Probiotics!

Now here is the next problem.  Which probiotic to choose from… There’s Align, there’s Activia, there’s Pearls, there’s Florastor… where do we even start!?  As usual the easiest answer is the best answer.  You  don’t need to buy anything expensive and you don’t need to buy anything fancy.  Good old acidophilus capsules you can get from the refrigerator section are really the best, but the ones sitting on the shelf will work just fine.  All those big brand names really don’t get you additional bang for your buck.  As far as yogurts go… the big cheap tub yogurts are the best.  The more whey the better (that’s where the bacteria live) and the less sugar the better (This is why I hate Activia).  Another good food to help replace gut bacteria is kefir (it’s great by itself, as a dip for fruit, or in smoothies).

Go with your gut!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *