What happens to the health of your digestive tract after taking antibiotics?
What dietary supplements do you need to help restore gut health?
Here’s the first in a series of blogs exploring these questions.
Your large intestine is home to a huge number of tiny organisms known as microbes, because they can’t be seen without the aid of a microscope. These microbes are collectively called ‘gut flora’ and include hundreds of different species of friendly bacteria, and smaller numbers of fungi and protozoa. Incredibly, there are ten times as many microbial organisms in the human gut as there are cells in the entire human body!
The symbiotic nature of the relationship between humans and our intestinal microbes is complex, and includes many critical roles performed by gut flora that improve our digestion, defence, immunity, nutrition and metabolism. In other words, we need these trillions of tiny organisms living in healthy balance in our intestines, to help maintain our own health.
Antibiotics destroy our friendly gut flora as well as the disease-causing bacteria they are targeting. They have a ‘broad spectrum’ effect, killing off every bacterial organism they encounter. This creates dysbiosis (disruption of the gut flora) allowing other microbes such as Candida albicans to proliferate. Steroids, chemotherapy, contaminated food or water, prolonged stress, hormonal changes, a highly processed diet, environmental and lifestyle toxins, a compromised immune response, infection or illness, and inflammatory diseases of the intestinal tract (e.g. IBS, Crohn’s, UC, diverticulitis) are other causes of dysbiosis. In all these cases, PREBIOTICS and PROBIOTICS are needed to help restore the microbial balance and provide an anti-inflammatory effect.
PREBIOTICS are the indigestible fibres in many plant foods that promote the growth of friendly gut flora. They stimulate metabolic activity and protect against pathogens. Research during the last fifteen years has confirmed the common sense view of dietary fibre as essential to a healthily functioning digestive tract. Essentially, eating a daily range of whole foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, pulses and vegetables will provide the prebiotic fibre you need.
PROBIOTICS, as their name suggests, are ‘life promoting’ gut-friendly microorganisms needed to ensure intestinal health. Acidophilus yoghurt is one food source but probably won’t be enough to replace the large quantities destroyed by a course of antibiotics. Also, up to 95% of the bacteria eaten in yoghurt are destroyed by stomach acid before reaching the more neutral environment of the large intestine. For these reasons it’s important to take a supplement form of probiotics whenever your intestinal flora is destroyed or compromised.
Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus and Bacillus are five beneficial bacteria genus types commonly found in probiotic supplements. Acidophilus, rhamnosus and reuteri are three species of the Lactobacillus genus. L. rhamnosus is one that can survive bile and stomach acid, and has proven effective in preventing childhood respiratory illness and eczema. L. reuteri has been identified as one of the first strains of friendly bacteria to pass from mother to infant, helping create early natural immunity and digestive health. L. reuteri suits all ages, particularly infants who haven’t been breast fed or whose intestinal health is compromised for any reason.
Any of the Primadophilus brand range of probiotics can actually be taken concurrently with a course of antibiotics because it contains strains of bacteria that are very resistant to the drugs and won’t be destroyed.
Lifestream Advanced Probiotics and Nature’s Way Primadophilus Reuteri Pearls are two probiotic supplements that are formulated so they can be stored at room temperature (under 25°C), unlike most similar products that require refrigeration. Either is a great choice for travellers, especially if you’re heading to countries where the risk of digestive upsets and diarrhoea is high. Remember these are live microorganisms, so care still needs to be taken to maintain their viability.
See more information on supplements for restoring and maintaining intestinal health in my next blog.
By Carolyn Simon, Naturopath
HealthPost stock a range of quality, leading-brand Prebiotic, gut health and Probiotic supplements. These are available for secure purchase at great low prices from our online store.
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