In the last Earth Medicine installment I discussed the importance of enzymes for healthy digestion. This time around I'll cover the other important aspect of a happy gut: probiotics. Think of enzymes and probiotics as the Starsky and Hutch of the digestive system. One without the other just doesn't quite cut it.
"Probiotic" simply refers to live microorganisms that are of benefit to the body. There's a lot of buzz about them these days; they're prominently advertised on TV, and the allopathic medical community has embraced their value for a range of digestion issues from restoring the balance of flora following antibiotics to improving regularity. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt, as well as in supplement form in varying concentrations.
The typical American diet is the nemesis of a good microflora population in the gut. Sugar -- in any form-- depletes the good guys and allows the bad guys --namely candida-- to proliferate. Prescription drugs also take their toll, and the resulting imbalance can cause bloating, gas, irregularity, and a host of other more serious digestive issues. An imbalance of flora can also affect our general health because 80% of our immune cells line the gut. One interesting study involving preschoolers showed that kids who took a daily probiotic had 75% fewer colds and flu's than those who didn't. That's not a number to sneeze at.
You say you eat yogurt? Great! But you'd have to eat a truckload to get the concentrations of active cultures that you need. Besides, unless you're eating plain yogurt, the sugar and fruit used for flavoring defeat the purpose... remember, sugar feeds the bad bacteria. Another thing to consider is that most sugar free yogurts contain aspartame, a synthetic sweetener widely considered highly toxic. We must be vigilant label readers: some sneaky companies avoid the word "aspartame" on the label, instead indicating its presence with an asterisk and the words "contains Phenylalanine". It's the same thing. Put it back on the shelf.
A daily probiotic supplement is an easy way to maintain balance in the gut. There are a slew of products out there, in a variety of concentrations, in capsules, powder, or chewables as well as those specially designed for children. If you're behind the eight ball in the probee department, I suggest you consult a natural practitioner or visit a respected independent natural products retailer for the best one to suit your needs. A local company, RenewLife, offers truly excellent products, and are available at most health food stores.
As ever, if you have any questions on this or any other health topic, don't hesitate to get in touch through the Patch, at 727-725-1617, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also have an open invitation to stop by Bailey's Naturals, our charming store in downtown Safety Harbor!
This information is provided for educational purposes, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, nor should it be considered a substitute for the expert care of a qualified medical practitioner.