In Farmington, it has been an especially taxing winter and spring. For whatever reason, the bugs and allergens have been stronger than usual this season, and more people have come down with sicknesses.
This blog post is an important reminder during of one thing you must do after you've beaten a bacterial infection or gone through a round of anti-biotics.
If you've had a round of anti-biotics, you must -- I repeat, MUST! -- make sure to take a quality probiotic afterwards. Antibiotics are great, and they've saved thousands of lives, but they act like a nuke -- they usually wipe your gut bacteria clean, killing the bad bacteria and the good bacteria in the process.
The truth is there's more bacterial cells in your gut than "you" cells, and these guys need to be happy. These bacteria are an important part of "you". An imbalance of good to bad bacteria in your gut is called dysbiosis, and it can have nasty ramifications from obesity, to depression, to poor vitamin absorption, to even a few autoimmune conditions.
Another awesome fact about the bacteria that lives in your tummy: they make you happy! There's a neurotransmitter called seratonin (read about it HERE). It's a fantastic little chemical that is involved in a myriad of your brain's signaling, much of which is responsible for giving you feelings of happiness and well being. Well, most of this neurotransmitter is not manufactured in your head... it's made from those little critters in your gut. Bad gut bacteria, bad mood.
How do you re-inoculate yourself with good bacteria if you've been on a round of antibiotics? Get this pill, take one a day until it runs out. Things not to do: do not eat a carton of Dannon Strawberry yogurt thinking you're doing the same thing. You're not. These yogurts are basically ice-cream with a tiny sprinkling of acidopholus on top. They are a joke, and most likely contribute to more health problems than they heal. Real food with probiotics are fermented foods: those nasty, sour foods like real yogurt, or real sauerkraut, kimchee, and nasty, strong cheese (think blue cheese, not cheddar). Do eat more of those things to help.
Here's to having a happy recovery from these nasty ills and having a great summer! Cheers!
Lawyer stuff: This blog is for educational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you have specific medical problems, please contact your general care practitioner or our office for such advice.
Possibly, and this may sound gross, one of the most important meals a newborn may get is the mouthful of bacteria the baby gets from his mom as he exits the vaginal canal. This is the setting for his gut flora - the mix of different bacteria that aid the child's body in absorption of nutrients. This gut flora sets the stage for the child's immune system. Sadly, many children miss out on having a healthy digestive system and immune system because the gut flora that the baby was supposed to get from his mother was never present in his mother in the first place! Antibiotics, over-sterilization, and horrible diets have created nearly epidemic levels dysbiosis (a yeast infection is a popular example of "dysbiosis") in Americans. Watch a kid in the first half year of life, watch how everything gets shoved into his mouth. It's his major sensor organ that he uses to figure out info on all the objects in his world. As a result, most of the invading organisms a kid runs into come from the oral route. Without a healthy level of gut flora in the intestines a baby is handicapped in his or her ability to absorb nutrients, and as a result has a handicapped immune system.
So what if a mom didn't know about the absolute essential role of probiotics in the life of her kid? Or if she was on rounds of antibiotics before, or during, pregnancy? Or what if the poor child has already been on antibiotics himself because of an ear infection?
The answer to this problem is simple: RE-introduce the good gut flora. Begin supplementing with a "probiotic."
This is more complicated than the yogurt industry would have you believe. I'm anti-Dannon, anti-Activia. These brands are no more than ice-cream, with a tiny sprinkling of probiotics. A good probiotic will have a few traits:
- If possible, it will be vegetable, not dairy based (so most yogurt is out)
- It will have to be refrigerated. Probiotics are living things, don't get the dry dust stuff
- If getting a probiotic for an infant, make sure it has bifidobacteria. This strain of gut flora is unique to humans, and found in high concentration in mothers milk.
With that in mind, here's some of my favorites:
- Innate Choice - Vegetarian, the cream of the crop. A little bit more expensive, but worth it. Isn't found in stores, only sold by healthcare professionals (myself included -- call our office if you're in need of some). Watch Dr. Chestnut's video on why probiotic supplementation is so necessary.
- Udo's Choice Infant Probiotics - You can find this in the store! In Farmington, it's at Natural Grocers. Not as good as Innate Choice, but still great.
Natural sources of probiotics: fermented foods. OK, don't go giving your 2 year old beer. I'm talking about stuff that tastes vinegar-y, almost sour. Real yogurt tastes sour, not sweet, and if you're going to down dairy, this is the yogurt to try. Real, Greek style yogurt fits the bill. Look for brands without added sugar or sweetener (more on sugar and the immune system in a future post). What's interesting is that most older societies have some sort of fermented food, look for it, and try it. I love the fermented cabbage sauerkraut because it's vegetable based. I also like Asia's version, kimchi. There's even probiotics in a bottle, fermented tea called kombucha -- but prepare yourself for the taste. When buying fermented foods, look for ones that haven't just been stuck in vinegar, as it is missing the bacteria. With sauerkraut, for example, look for a label with cabbage, water, and salt in the ingredients. That's it. No vinegar. You'll know that's the real stuff and be able to taste the difference.
Give this time to get your gut flora balanced out, I'm talking about 3 months. You should notice benefits immediately, but the full effect won't be realized until later. Your children's immune systems will love you for it!