More and more medical studies are showing how important our healthy intestinal bacteria are to keeping us healthy. This has led to a growing support of the value of probiotics. Probiotics are simply healthy bacteria. Yogurt is one form of probiotic. It typically has 1-2 types of healthy bacteria. They also come in pill or liquid form with up to 20 healthy bacterial strains.
A group of college students were given a probiotic pill with more than 6 live bacterial strains during the winter months. Amazingly, they developed 50% less upper respiratory infections. (The average number of colds is 2-4 per year.) The reason is that our “friendly” gut bacteria boosts our immune system.
Antibiotics are necessary to treat many forms of infection. However, one down side is the impact on reducing our healthy intestinal bacteria. Antibiotics has led to the increase of a potentially serious intestinal infection- Clostridium difficile. Up to 30 days after taking an antibiotic, C.diff. can invade and produce a toxin that causes severe diarrhea. It can be very difficult to eradicate. This rarely occurs when we have our trillions of over 500 strains of healthy gut flora blocking C.diff. from entering.
Although not definitely proven, it seems prudent to consider taking a multi-strain probiotic during the winter months and for 30 days after taking an antibiotic.
by Joseph Sliwkowski MD