By Dr Erin Wiley ND
You can improve your digestion with the help of these tiny microbes
On a microscopic level your GI (Gastrointestinal) tract is a beautiful and dynamic ecosystem. Its seemingly endless rolling terrain and soft brush border make it the perfect organ for absorbing nutrients that fuel our magnificent bodies. When our GI ecosystem is in balance our health flourishes. But when our GI tract is out of balance we can experience a number of problematic symptoms like gas, cramping, pain, bloating, diarrhea and loose stools.
Like a garden exposed to damaging chemicals, drought or flooding rains, many factors can bring our GI system out of balance. Common contributing factors include: antibiotics, viruses, food sensitivities, stress, processed foods and chemical toxins. Some gardens may be more sensitive than others but you can add protection with the help of friendly GI flora, also know as Probiotics. These healthy bacteria line our GI tract to create a protective barrier over our sensitive brush boarder, commonly known as microvilli. This protective coat prevents viruses and bad bacteria from making a home in our ecosystem and decreases our susceptibility to common GI infections. Enzymes from these helpful workers also assist in digesting some of our food, making the nutrients we eat, more available to our bodies for absorption.
Clinical evidence demonstrates that probiotics can decrease both the symptoms and duration of gastroenteritis (stomach flu), especially in children who are commonly exposed to rotavirus (the most common cause of an upset tummy). (Guandalini 2000, Isolauri 1991, Kaila 1992, Szajewska 2001). Probiotics have also been shown to decrease antibiotic-associated diarrhea, travelers diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and have been used successfully in the treatment of Clostridium difficile associated disease. (George Tardik ND, Integrative Practitioner Pub. September 2008). Because our GI tract is so essential to our health, many of the concerns cited above, have the potential to become life threatening for some people. Thank goodness for the help of our friendly bacteria!
In my clinical experience I have found Probiotics very helpful for my pediatric clients. I often recommend Probiotics as part of a health promotion plan for new infants, especially non-breast fed infants who may be more susceptible to GI conditions. I also find Probiotics very helpful in the treatment of chronic ear infections in toddlers. My clients experiencing IBS, Crohnâ€™s disease, Colitis or celiac disease also find probiotic treatment very supportive.
Before you begin treatment with Probiotics it is important that you speak to your Naturopathic Doctor. There are some circumstances where Probiotics can be harmful. The dose, frequency and duration of the product is very important, as well as the specific types of bacteria the product contains. Not all products are created equal, and when it comes to your health, you want to be certain to get the best results.
Here are some helpful hints on the use of Probiotics:
- Choose a high quality probiotic recommended by your ND
- Choose the correct strain of bacteria to treat your concerns
- Store your product correctly as most species need to be refrigerated
- Follow the directions of your health care provider for dose, frequency, and duration of use
- Get a probiotic prescription whenever you are treated with antibiotics
- Take Probiotics when you travel to help prevent travelers diarrhea
- Yogurt is great for maintaining a healthy GI colony but choose a probiotic supplement for the treatment of specific GI concerns
Love your GUT and protect it today with healthy bacteria helpers.
Dr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor and clinic director at the Integrative Health Institute. The Integrative Health Institute is located downtown Toronto at the corner of King and Sherbourne St.