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Linda Mundorff

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January 2010

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Probiotics: What's in your gut?

April 2008
By Dr. Linda Mundorff, MPH,MSN,ND,RN,CNC,CTN

Located in our mouth, on our skin, and along the walls of our intestines, just to name a few, are a variety of microorganisms (bacteria,viral,fungi). These microorganisms constitute our normal flora and are a necessary part of maintaining a healthy body. The key to maintaining healthy flora is balance. If just one of these microbes has an opportunity to take over, illness would result. For example, there are a number of very important microbes that reside in our intestines. One of those bacteria is lactase. Without lactase the milk sugar lactose would not be broken down and the result would mostly likely lead to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea.

Many of us eat on the run, have eating regimens that contain a great deal of fried fatty foods, with little to no fiber. Introducing a group of supplements to your diet, called probiotics could help bring balance and prevent the gastric upset mentioned above. Not only do probiotics help regulate bowel movements; they play a key role in providing a barrier to infection.

If you struggle with boats of constipation and then diarrhea it could be related to a variety of problems stemming from poor dietary intake, stress, intestinal disease, or can be the result of antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics are given to treat bacterial infections. The problem is that the antibiotic doesn’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. So in the process of killing the bad bacteria some or all of the good bacteria are destroyed as well. We see this mechanism in the form of severe diarrhea. Probiotics can help rebalance the intestines after antibiotic treatment.

Not all probiotics are created equally so it is important to do your homework before you buy. And regulation of all supplements in the United States is lax which means there is little in the form of regular testing to ensure that the consumer is getting exactly what they paid for. You can purchase probiotics as a separate supplement in the form of lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and others or you can purchase many dairy products that have added probiotic cultures. Also note that these supplements are very fragile and subject to destruction from heat, age, and if taken with certain types of food. Also check the expiration date.

Probiotic treatment is not recommended for patients who are on immunosuppressent therapy, or have had an organ transplant. Before starting any probiotic regimen it is important to discuss with your doctor any potential adverse reactions when combining probiotics with your prescription, over-the-counter medications, herbal, or homeopathic remedies.

Probiotics are a wonderful adjunct to maintaining healthy intestines. But do your research first; you gut will thank you for it later.

In health and wellness,

Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Many herbal and homeopathic remedies can actually be contraindicated in many health conditions, with certain prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities.