WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
They are supplements containing bacteria that are found in all human intestines and known to provide several benefits necessary for good health. These bacteria include acidophilus, bifidus, bulgaricus and many others. Beneficial flora help keep yeasts and other organisms from overgrowing. They also produce substances, such as butyric acid, that nourish the cells of the intestinal lining.
WHY DO WE NEED PROBIOTICS?
When we have abundant levels of good flora, our immune system is stronger and our digestive system works better. Deterioration of the levels can lead to a wide variety of symptoms ? including fatigue, loss of mental clarity, poor memory, itching, heartburn, indigestion, sinus congestion, failing vision, ear pain, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, skin rashes, muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, depression, irritability and more.
Many Americans do not have adequate bacteria levels in the bowel. Antibiotics are the biggest cause of bacterial loss. They are used to kill bad bacteria but cannot distinguish between good and bad. Regular ingestion of chlorinated tap water also causes a loss of beneficial bacteria, since chlorine is put in water for the express purpose of killing organisms and, again, kills both good and bad.
HOW MUCH SHOULD WE TAKE?
To restore your good bacteria, the recommended dosing is 15 billion organisms twice a day for three to four months. Probiotics are also available in pearls (a spherical tablet), powder and liquid. Be sure you check the label to see what dose provides how many organisms.
WHEN SHOULD WE TAKE THE SUPPLEMENTS?
If you have ever had antibiotics and did not restore your intestinal flora, you can do this now. If you are on antibiotics, you should start immediately. If, after restoring your good bacteria, you then take antibiotics again, you should repeat the process. The dosing is generally the same in all these instances (see above). If you start antibiotics, start probiotics immediately. In Europe, doctors routinely prescribe probiotics at the same time as antibiotics.
Studies vary widely on whether it is best to take them with or away from food, so taking them at both of those times may be the best approach. However, convenience is important, insuring that you will take them regularly. You might take the morning one when you first get up and the evening one with dinner, or one each at breakfast and dinner ? whatever works for your schedule.
If you are taking antibiotics, it is very important that you keep the antibiotic and the probiotic at least two hours apart. Otherwise, the dose of antibiotic will kill the good bacteria in the dose of probiotic.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS?
Some probiotics need to be refrigerated and others do not. Be sure to check the label.
If you are allergic to dairy, be sure to find a probiotics supplement that is dairy-free. All probiotics are grown on a substrate of either dairy or soy protein. Some companies then remove the substrate, so that the product is dairy- and/or soy-free. However, the law requires they still list the substrate material that was used, so reading the ingredient list will not tell you if it has been removed. If you have an allergy to dairy or soy, check the label and then check with the company to find out if the product is indeed free of the allergen(s). Many companies will tell you if it is dairy-free, but few of them give information about soy. Metagenics makes a product called Ultra Flora Plus, which we carry at the clinic, which is both dairy- and soy-free.
After restoring your good bacteria, you may need to do some rebuilding of the bowel lining. We use L-glutamine to help heal the small intestine lining and butyric acid (butyrate) to help heal the large intestine lining. We carry both of these products.