By Megan Schlick, ND
Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” are organisms that may have beneficial effects on human physiology and health. These good bacteria spend the day taking up space in your digestive tract, so the bad pathogenic organisms don’t have the room or the resources to take over. Probiotics work to regulate immune function, aid in digestion and produce chemicals that inactivate or kill pathogens. Here are my three top reasons why someone should take a probiotic.
- Skin problems. Whether you have eczema, acne or some other inflammatory skin condition, probiotics could benefit you. The skin is one of the best ways to assess the health of your digestive system. The more unhealthy your skin, the more likely something is going on with your digestive system. Miso, kimchi, fresh sauerkraut and kefir are all great food sources of probiotics. Yogurt can be, but some products are high in sugar and contain little “live, active cultures.” Keep in mind, skin conditions often have a food component, but taking a probiotic is a good first step.
- Digestive problems. Chronic diarrhea or constipation could signal a problem with bacteria imbalances. Did your digestive problems begin after being on an antibiotic? Think back – did you have chronic ear infections, sinus infections or strep as a child? These conditions are common ailments for which antibiotics are prescribed. The use of antibiotics can lead to bacterial imbalances which cause digestive complaints such as diarrhea and constipation. Testing is available to fully access the health of your digestive system, but probiotics are a safe step in the right direction.
- Taking an antibiotic. If you don’t remember anything else in this article, remember that whenever you must take an antibiotic, always pair it with a probiotic. Always! Otherwise you might start experiencing #1 and #2. Antibiotics are among the most useful classes of drugs in use today, and also among the most widely prescribed. But the downside is that they are not specific in the bacteria they target, good or bad.
Tips for Probiotic Use:
- When buying a probiotic, look for a product that delivers the highest number of live organisms (at least 5-30 billion CFUs). Although this sounds like a lot, our intestinal tract is home to more than one trillion bacteria.
- A good probiotic should contain multiple different strands. The best strands for the conditions discussed above are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
- You don’t necessarily need to buy the probiotic refrigerated, as many now don’t require refrigeration. Make sure to read the label carefully to ensure the specific storage instructions.
- Always dose a probiotic at least two hours away from taking the antibiotic, as the antibiotic will kill the beneficial bacteria.
- Once you have completed the antibiotic regimen, continue taking a probiotic for at least two weeks.
This weekly sponsored Community Health Update is brought to you by Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
Megan Schlick, ND, is a Prairie Village resident and accredited naturopath at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. To learn more about her practice, visit ShawneeMission.org/HolisticCare. To find a doctor or for free health information, call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.