Do you need a Probiotic?

By writing a short paper for my Microbiology class on how nutrition and microbiology are correlated, I developed an interesting post! Read on for information about Probiotics!

Research is skewed on whether or not taking probiotics are actually beneficial. Research does however indicate that gut microflora is affected by many medications such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and corticosteroids. Gut microflora?!?! What is that? The gut contains microorganisms (bacteria) that aid in many biochemical functions in the body such as digestion, training the immune system and defending the body against some diseases/pathogens. Basically, you need the “good” bacteria to ward off the growth of “bad” bacteria!

The main reason supplementation of probitoics has not been thoroughly proven is because there are no set guidelines on how to measure the benefits of probiotics or how much is safe to take per day. Probiotics are also widely abundant in yogurt with “live and active cultures.” The main strains are Lactobacillus (acidophilus) and Saccoharmyces bouldardii (bifidobacteria). These are the strains that have been shown to help avoid infections, reduce yeast overgrowth in the gut, aid in digestion, and enhance immunity.

If you have ever taken medications such as antibiotics, birth control pills, or corticosteroids, especially long term, chances are your gut microflora may be unbalanced. If you are experiencing any type of digestive discomfort, you should speak with your doctor about trying probiotics first to see if they are safe for you.

IBS sufferers may greatly benefit from probiotics! It is all about finding what is safe and what works for you!

  1. Ezendam, J, & Loveren, H. (2006). Probiotics: immunomodulation and evaulation of safety and efficacy. Nutrition Reviews, 64(1), 1-14.
  2. Edwards, C. (2003). Interactions between nutrition and the intestinal microflora. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 52(1), 375-382.
  3. Turner, N. (2005). Probiotics or prebiotics. Alive: Canadian Journal of Health & Nutrition, (277), 50-51.

Why I went Gluten Free?

A lot of people are going gluten free these days. Some people go gluten free for medical reasons, mostly being a diagnosis of celiac disease, some to lose weight. Let’s get one thing straight: a gluten free diet alone will not help you lose weight. A calorie is still a calorie whether it is from corn, rice, wheat, oat, or whatever kind of grain you can think of. In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in but that is an entirely different subject so let’s get back on topic here.

I myself have had a medical diagnosis over the years including but not limited to: gastroesophageal reflux disease, gallbladder disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. After taking multiple medications, having multiple blood tests, procedures, and all that jazz, I left the doctor’s office with a prescription for a cholesterol lowering medication to stop diarrhea because they said I had “post cholecystectomy diarrhea,” (sorry to be so blunt) and a prescription for antidepressants. Hello! What is causing all of this?????? Needless to say, I never took these medications. My cholesterol is fine (hello I’m an active 23 year old) and I’m not depressed (my life is perfect, just kidding but you get the picture).

About six months later, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to find help for these debilitating symptoms of alternating diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, etc….I sought out a natural doctor with the help of a friend who had great results for her troubles. The natural doctor was able to find that I had a parasite, H. pylori infection, bacterial imbalance, and gluten + dairy sensitivities. My husband and I both were a bit questionable as to whether or not all of the given supplements and prescribed diet was going to help. I found out a few months later, seeing this doctor had completely healed my gut!

No, insurance did not pay for this. I had to pay out of pocket. Do I regret it? No. Is it scientifically based practice? Not completely. Did it work? Yes.

The GI doctors were never able to diagnose me with celiac disease, but after getting rid of the parasite, H. pylori infection, and balancing the good bacteria in my gut, I still could not be symptom free without avoiding gluten (but I’m fine with oats now) in my diet as well. After avoiding it for a period of six months, I am no longer lactose intolerant either so I can finally have my favorite food group again: ICE CREAM dairy. I’m not saying that GI doctors don’t know what they are doing. Many of them treat serious issues such as crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis everyday but for many IBS patients, they are told it is a diagnosis of exclusion and all other possibilities must be ruled out first then given silly prescriptions. Taking medication to treat symptoms is not always the answer. Sometimes you have to find the cause of your problems.

So my advice to anyone suffering from IBS is to first and foremost find the cause of your problem. No I’m not saying find a natural doctor and go there immediately because it is quite costly. I do recommend trying elimination diets. Cut out all offenders from your diet for six weeks such as gluten, dairy, soy, egg, and peanuts; then slowly add them back in one by one to look for symptoms. If you can’t cut them all out at one time, try just doing one at a time for 3 to 4 weeks to see how you feel. I also recommend this book: What your Doctor may not tell you about IBS?

The author is a Medical Doctor, Richard Ash. I always like to read books by authors with actual credentials. This lets me know they are qualified!

So here is to you on your journey for an IBS free life. Keep a mind of health to recognize the possibilities that you may not even realize are out there. I’m sure glad I did!