Let’s face it—we live in a fast-paced world.
Whether it’s internet access, mobile communications, or food, we’ve been conditioned to believe that faster is better. While it may be difficult to argue against faster internet or mobile communications access, there’s a significant body of research that argues against fast food as being healthy or nutritious.1 Nevertheless, more and more Americans are lining up to eat at McDonald’s and Burger King.
The practical upshot for all of those Big Macs and Whoppers that are consumed is that you are probably seeing an increasing number of patients coming to see you with a primary complaint of some type of GI complaint, including gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.2
While you certainly can treat any immediate symptoms, you may want to consider talking to your patients about the overall health benefits of adding probiotics to their daily vitamin and supplement regimen.
What are probiotics?
In the simplest possible terms, probiotics are live bacteria that the body naturally produces and are beneficial for proper digestion.3 They are considered “good bacteria” because of this.
There are several types of probiotics, but the two most popular are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria are often found in dairy products such as yogurt and certain fermented cheeses, soy products, and fermented vegetables such as kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage). Probiotics also come in the form of a supplement pill.
How do probiotics work?
Under normal circumstances, probiotics keep a balance among both the good and bad bacteria in the human gut.3 They do this by helping move food through the digestive tract. Unfortunately, if your patients develop a bacterial infection or adverse reactions to eating too much processed fast food, this balance is upset in favor of the bad bacteria. This can lead to diarrhea, cramping, gas, and bloating. Probiotics can most commonly help with the following GI issues:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Infectious diarrhea (from viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea2-3
However, probiotics may also have a protective effect if they are taken as part of a daily vitamin and supplement regimen. In essence, probiotics work to boost the body’s immune system to protect it against:
- Skin conditions (such as eczema)
- Urinary and vaginal infections
- Allergies and colds
- Oral health2-3
In today’s hectic world, a balanced diet is often one of the first things we sacrifice. Unfortunately, this can often lead to a host of GI problems. While you should certainly encourage your patients to improve their diet, suggesting probiotic supplements will also go a long way toward helping them feel better at a gut level.