Written by Katrina Roberts
One of the next up and coming topics in the healthcare world is understanding the human microbiome. What is the human microbiome you ask? It is all the microbes that live in or on our body. Which turns out to be a lot, and some consider it to be its own functioning organ system. These bacteria do not cause infections or harm us; they work with our body and create a relationship that we both benefit from.
For this week’s blog, I’m going to focus on the bacteria naturally found in our digestive tract. While we already know that the bacteria in our gut helps us have normal bowel function, scientists also believe that a disruption in this bacteria could be linked to depression, weight gain, asthma and immune system disorders. With more research and understanding of the human microbiome, we may someday learn how to prevent or better treat these conditions.
Good bacteria and bad bacteria are both found in your intestines, and they are in a constant battle. If your good bacteria counts are low, that leaves room for the bad bacteria to take over. This can cause mild symptoms of bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Or it can progress into a more serious inflammatory condition, causing damage to the intestines.
Most people do not need a probiotic to maintain a healthy digestive system, but there are some situations where they can help. If you get an infection and are prescribed an antibiotic, that antibiotic will kill good bacteria in your body as well as the bad bacteria. Because this happens, diarrhea is a common side effect of many antibiotics. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, ask your pharmacist about a probiotic to lessen this side effect.
Altitude Drug has probiotic options for infants to adults, and can come as capsules, powder packets, drops or gummies. They can also come as live or freeze-dried bacteria, which is why some preparations need to be refrigerated. Some helpful tips: Don’t take your probiotic and antibiotic at the same time. Take the probiotic at least 2 hours after you take your antibiotic, because the antibiotic will inactive the probiotic. While many antibiotics can be taken with food, many probiotics are taken on an empty stomach. Ask your pharmacist or read the label for the probiotic that you choose.
What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Probiotics contain bacteria that are similar to the good bacteria in your gut, so they are used to replenish the good bacteria you’ve lost. You can upset the balance of your gut bacteria due to taking antibiotics, stress, changing your diet, or travelling. A few examples of bacteria strains found in probiotics are lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and bifidobacterium.
A prebiotic is plant fiber that the human body cannot digest, but the good bacteria can. It is like a fertilizer for the good bacteria! This will help keep the bad bacteria in check. Prebiotics include inulin and oligiofructose. The fiber is also a good bulking agent, keeping your bowels regular.
You don’t need to take a commercially prepared capsule to get a dose of probiotics or prebiotics. Eating foods that have gone through a fermentation process will also help with your gut flora. Foods that are natural probiotics include live culture yogurt, sauerkraut, and some types of soft cheese. Foods that are natural prebiotics include asparagus, yams, onions, garlic, barley and rye.
Probiotics might help with other immune system conditions. Formulations containing lactobacillus acidophilus might prevent yeast infections in women who are taking antibiotics. The reoccurrence of urinary tract infections could also be reduced by taking probiotics. So keep on the lookout for exciting new discoveries in the future regarding our microbiome. In the meantime, take care of your good bacteria! Eat a healthy diet containing unprocessed and fermented foods. Or, consider taking pre or probiotic supplements. Stop by and ask your pharmacist for more information!