What the Gut? How Probiotics Can Fix Your Life.
On my honor I solemnly swear that I will actively avoid gushing terms like dysbiosis, cytochrome P450, Lactobacillicus, and other words that are great for scrabble but bad for blog posts. It will be difficult though. I get excited about things like this. What am I excited about? Germs. Good germs! Bacteria actually. I recently was contacted by a friend on Facebook (a large social networking website you may or may not have heard of) who asked this indepth, soul-searching question: "Hey Jason… what's your advice on probiotics". Well Facebook friend of mine… here it goes.
First a little background… In our gut (intestines, colon, etc.) we have a population of around 400 different microbial species. A microbe is an itty bitty organism like a bacteria or fungus. I know. It sounds disgusting but we actually need these gross little guys to be healthy. About 30-40 species of microbes account for 99% of what we have in our gut. We are talking about a LOT of microbes, like 2-9 lbs worth. If you were to count the microbes you will find that you have wasted a lot of time because there are more microbes in our gut than human cells in our body. Yes, we are talking in the trillions.
These microbes carry out a number of functions for us. For example they provide a physical barrier against harmful bacteria or fungus strains. They help us break down and digest food in the gut. Some studies even indicate that they have potential anti-tumor activity protecting us from various forms of cancer. Gut microbes produce enzymes which our liver uses for detoxification. They produce some B vitamins and Vitamin K. You can clearly see that these are our little buddies regardless of how creepy the thought of having a bunch of bacteria in our tubing may be.
A probiotic supplement consists of some mixture of those 30-40 main species I mentioned before. Supplementation with a probiotic can help to balance out these gut microbes and provide you with the benefits I listed above. This combined with getting enough fiber can help keep your gut healthy. A healthy gut will prevent gas and bloating, improve allergy symptoms, help maintain a healthy weight and reduce systemic inflammation (the cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and just about every other chronic inflammatory disease). I have patients who have used probiotics to help them overcome fatigue, fibromyalgia, food sensitivities, symptoms from Crohn's disease, and other problems.
There are a number of probiotic supplements out there. Some contain live cultures that must be refrigerated. Others come in pills. You can even get some healthy bacteria in yogurt and keifer. I recommend a product called Probiotic Restore Ultra and there are other good products out there.
Finally… How do you know if you need probiotics? If you experience bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, constipation, diarrhea or other symptoms I've listed in this post then probiotics may be helpful. If you have been taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aleve, advil, etc) you should use probiotics because these drugs can lead to imbalance. If you have been on anti-biotics then you definitely need probiotics because the whole job of anti-biotics is to kill…. biotics! (AKA the microbes). Don't expect the probiotics to work over night. It takes a while to get all of the bacteria balanced and working when there has been a problem. Sometimes it is weeks but it can often take months to receive the full benefit.
So there you go Facebook friend! I hope this helps. My answer to your question is a resounding HECK YES! If you or anyone has questions please leave them in the comments or you may e-mail me at [email protected].