This question usually sparks quite a discussion, but today we are going to look at it from a slightly different angle. 3

Bio – indicating or involving life or living organisms

Pro – in favor of; for

Anti – opposed to; against (Thanks Merriam-Webster.com!)

Put these words together and you get probiotic (“for” life) and antibiotic (“against” life). Our human bodies are incredible beings that have the amazing ability to overcome infection and regenerate tissues, among millions of other daily processes. However, it is not without help that our bodies complete these tasks.

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We are host to millions of living organisms within our very own tissues, and if it were not for these little helpers, we would not be able to live out our lives. In fact, the number of bacterial cells in our bodies out-numbers our very own human cells 10 to 1! That’s right, one could argue that we are more bacterial than we are human… These living organisms help to keep our bodies healthy in many different ways, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on those that assist in digestion. Our GI tract is filled with millions of bacteria that are essential to digesting the food we eat. However, our current medical habits require that when we get ill, we consume antibiotics to kill the infecting bacteria and support our own lives. Yet, antibiotics are not like advanced target missiles. They do not hunt down and kill only the infecting bacteria, they kill any bacteria present in the body that is within its reach. Since most antibiotics are taken orally, the bacteria in our digestive tract is in the line of fire. That means with every bout of antibiotics, millions of helpful bacteria have been killed. Now, that would not be so bad if those killed bacteria simply regrew quickly. Yet, because of our modern day eating habits and stress levels, those beneficial bacteria do not grow back. In fact, the opposite occurs. Our current eating and lifestyle habits more readily support the growth of harmful or toxic bacteria in our bodies.

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The unfriendly bacteria take hold before the good bacteria have a chance to grow back and wreak havoc on our digestive systems. It is a race to build the internal microbiota of our gut, the good versus the bad. Now, you may be thinking, “I have not taken an antibiotic in years!”…well, guess again. If you consume conventional meat or dairy, you have been taking antibiotics every time you enjoy your steak or morning cereal. Unfortunately, the antibiotics you have been taking were not even prescribed to you. They were injected into the livestock to prevent them from getting sick in their unimaginable conditions. Those antibiotics were absorbed into the tissues or milk of the animal and passed on to you when you ate it. Obviously, it was not at full strength, so it is kind of like not finishing your full prescription of antibiotics…and we all know that is a BIG NO-NO! And so wages the war of Man versus Mother Nature. Man tries to create a drug that will control Mother Nature. Mother Nature figures out a way to outsmart that drug. Man creates another drug…stronger, more powerful. Mother Nature again dodges the super drug by becoming a superbug. Eventually (and FYI this has already happened) Man runs out of drugs to control Mother Nature, but we now have superbugs that our immune systems are powerless against because they have had antibiotics to help them kill off infection all along. Remember: Mother Nature always wins. So instead of trying to control and overpower Her, why not learn to live in harmony with Her? Anyone feeling a bit defeated right now? As you know, I do not like to sugar coat anything (Haha…you know my feelings about sugar…), but I also do not like to ring the alarm without taking action to make things right! So, WHAT DO WE DO?! We arm ourselves. We build our immune systems strong and powerful by themselves. We prepare our bodies in the best way possible to wage war…should they ever need to. (On a side note…I am totally loving this war analogy. I am envisioning little green blobs with army hats on marching through my lymph system as I type…) And, how in the world do we arm ourselves from dangerous microscopic little buggers? One word: PROBIOTICS. Okay, so that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration. There is a LOT more to do then just that, but probiotics are a darn good start! Probiotics put all the good bacteria back in your gut after a round of antibiotics wipes them all out. Did you ever notice how messed up your “stomach” gets while on antibiotics? Supplement your antibiotic doses with a good quality probiotic to prevent that from happening…or better yet avoid the antibiotic in the first place. (I had to sneak that in…) Your probiotic should contain multiple strains (at least 5; lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum being two of the main strains), have a count of live bacteria in the BILLIONS and be enteric coated, if possible, so that it can pass through your stomach and release when it gets deep into the bowels of your body. But again, it is a race to the finish. Those good probiotics are running against the clock with those unfriendly bacteria that have the standard American diet, stress, poor food quality and sluggish bowels to aid their infestation. I realize that might not be as convincing of an argument as you may have hoped…but read on! The following information is referenced from Gerard E. Mullin’s, Integrative Gastroenterology, a volume from the Weil Integrative Medicine Library. Probiotics can have very confusing names, but once you get to know a little more about them, you start to understand their potential power. Please understand, this is NOT an exhaustive explanation of the probiotic world, but I did not want to overwhelm you with science. If you would like a more thorough understanding of how probiotics may help you, feel free to contact me. As stated above, the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteriium strains should sound very familiar, as they are the most common strains you will find in probiotic supplements. Another, possibly less familiar, strain is Streptococcus salivarius. This may ring a bell when you hear “Strep…” as in strep throat. Obviously this is a different bacteria than the Streptococcus pyogenes that often causes strep throat, but I think you can start to understand the power that a little bacteria can have. If the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria can cause the awful symptoms that accompany a sore throat, imagine the strength that the Streptococcus salivarius has to help us! Another heavy hitter in the probiotic world is Sachharomyces boulardii. Interestingly enough, this is a yeast with a close similarity to baker’s yeast! However, eating danishes and cinnamon rolls will not get you the same effects…sorry! Being a yeast, we often think candida, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections – again attesting to the strength of these microbes to cause havoc. But S. boulardii is showing amazing benefits in cases of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and even Clostridium difficile infections!

Last point I want to emphasize here…bacterial infections like E. coli, salmonella, H. pylori take hold in our bodies ONLY when the environment is conducive to their growth. If we cultivate an environment in our bodies that is conducive to the growth of our beneficial bacteria, then not only will it NOT be conducive to the dangerous bacteria, but if we do happen to be exposed to it, our bacterial buddies will quickly eradicate the infection and remove it from our bodies with minimal symptoms! YAY bacteria buddies!

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Ok, enough science talk for the day. I hope that was not too overwhelming…the bacterial world can be quite confusing and new discoveries are being made every day. If you take one thing away from this article, I encourage you to start exploring the world of probiotics so your body can build its defense from microbial invasions of the wrong kind!

In addition to adding a daily probiotic to your health routine, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (aka those PREbiotics you most likely have heard about), whole foods, exercise, stress management, water, and living a life you love will help to support the healthy growth of friendly bacteria in your bodies, in addition to preventing the need for antibiotics in the first place, leading you to live a naturally long and happy life! I do not know about you, but that sounds great to me! Be sure to check out this month’s recipes for amazing and delicious ways to get a mega dose of probiotics!