August 16th, 2011 by Digestive Detective
Worry over infectious disease such as H1N1, or swine flu, bird flu and other bugs has created anxiety and stress over the possibility of a pandemic. When the H1N1 scare occurred, many individuals' flooded urgent care and ER facilities for fear their symptoms meant they were infected. Others popped antibiotics and other medications in hopes of protecting themselves. The overuse and over-prescription of antibiotic drugs has lead to new, more virulent strains of resistant "super bugs." In addition, over consumption of these drugs leads to myriad of other low level, often unseen or unassociated health problems in our general population. Years of taking antibiotics either reactively or "proactively" have led many to now have compromised immune systems, recurrent yeast & urinary tract infections, and numerous digestive issues. Antibiotics are necessary, but when taken for every little bug, cold, or illness, they wreak havoc on our internal systems by throwing them off balance. How do we re-establish that balance? Team up with a "pro" - a probiotic.
In 2002, a Joint FAO/WHO Working Group defined probiotics as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." Probiotics are healthy bacteria that promote immune system strength, intestinal health, and restore the balance of intestinal microflora. Intestinal microflora balance is crucial to digestive health well as overall health as “balanced microflora is of main importance for the correct development of the immune system.”
You can purchase probiotics in supplement form, just be sure that they have labels indicating they've been "third party tested" from an independent lab such as ConsumerLab.com - a firm that tests supplements to verify their label claims. In addition, ensure the supplement contains a variety of strains of probiotics—not just a single organism.
You can also derive probiotics from food sources such as Kefir (a cultured milk product) and yogurt. Opt for plain yogurt to avoid excess sugar, and when buying, check the ingredient label for the words "live and active cultures" or look for the "Live & Active Cultures" seal from the National Yogurt Association, which ensures a minimum of 100 million live cultures per gram. Several additional pro- and pre-biotic foods are also available now such as cultured coconut milk, sauerkraut and other foods labeled as “cultured.” Eat a variety of these cultured foods to improve your overall digestive environment and promote a healthy gut.
Reference: European Journal of Nutrition 2002 Nov;41 Suppl 1:I32-7.