by Dr. Melissa Miskell
Your gastrointestinal tract is a complex ecosystem containing more than 400 bacterial species. These intestinal flora help with digestion, synthesizing vitamins and nutrients, metabolizing some medications, supporting the development and functioning of the gut and enhancing the immune system.
Good Gut Bugs
These bacteria can be found in your stomach and small intestines, but the majority are found in your colon. In fact, 70 percent of the immune system is based in the intestinal tract.
There are times when this balance of beneficial bacteria becomes imbalanced. Extended or recurrent use of antibiotics, poor dietary habits or recent infections can all contribute to an imbalance in gut flora. This is where probiotics help. A high-dose, multistrain probiotic can help re-colonize the GI tract and foster the proper balance of beneficial bacteria.
Choosing a Probiotic
Look for the following characteristics when you choose your probiotic:
- It is muti-strain. This means that it has more than one type of bacteria in each capsule. The one I recommend the most contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium lactis. The strain numbers should be listed after the bacteria name.
- It is properly packaged. Probiotics need to be packaged so that oxygen and heat cannot reach the capsules. Probiotics contain live bacteria, and when the lid is opened and the bacteria are exposed to oxygen, they begin to deteriorate. The packages should also be consistently refrigerated, even during transport. Refrigeration ensures the organisms do not get overheated and die.
- It is high dose. For maximum results, the gastrointestinal tract needs maximum exposure. For those patients who have gastrointestinal issues or tend to have weakened immune systems, I recommend 100 billion CFU (the measurement for bacteria is colonyforming units) daily. Other patients who simply need to maintain gastrointestinal health can take the 100 billion CFU capsule every other day or a few times per week.
The health of your gastrointestinal tract affects your entire body. If you want to improve your overall health, add a quality, high-dose probiotic to your list of musthave supplements.
Dr. Melissa Miskell is a board-certified gynecologist who specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement for men and women. She believes in wellness through supplements and compounded medications. Learn more about Dr. Miskell’s whole-body wellness practice at www.thefocus.net.