Many patients have asked me what supplements they should be taking for optimal health. This is a very difficult question to answer because we all have some specific deficiencies that need to be addressed such as iron deficiency, B12/folic acid deficiencies, electrolyte(mineral) imbalances, essential fatty acid deficiencies --just to name a few. But once the deficiencies have been taken care of, then to maintain health, we need to take what I call "Core" nutritional supplements--the ones that have been proven to improve our overall health.
"Core" nutritional supplements consist of a multi vitamin/mineral formula, essential fatty acids such as an EPA/DHA/GLA formula, digestive enzymes, a fiber/prebiotic supplement and most importantly, a good probiotic( healthy bacteria). If you have low vitamin D levels, you should take a vitamin D supplement and have repeat blood tests every 3 months until your levels are in the 60-80 range--then every 6 months-1 year while you continue your Vit. D supplement, monitor your blood levels.
Now, I've heard many patients say "I eat yogurt several times a day so I don't need to take a probiotic." Well, I'm sorry to "burst your bubble" but by the time the yogurt gets to the supermarket shelf, all of the bacteria are virtually dead--so you won't be getting any probiotics here!! The only thing you'll be eating is a sugary dairy desert. One of my collegues said to me that he tells his patients that if they want a sugar-laden dairy desert, they would be better off eating ice cream instead of yogurt --ice cream will give them a little saturated fat to partly balance the gooey gobs of sugar that yogurt contains!
So, instead of eating sugary yogurt--take a good probiotic instead. The website Green Med Info has an amazing list of more than 200 studies which together explore over 170 diseases which can be helped or treated with probiotics.
Your body contains about 100 trillion bacteria--more than 10 times the number of cells you have in your entire body. Research has shown that the type and quantity of micro-organisms in your gut interact with your body in ways that can either prevent or encourage the development of many diseases. According to just one of the many studies linked on the Green Med Info website: " The ability of the gut micobiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid component and even mood itself, may have important implications......." Eating sugary foods actually nourishes the bad bacteria, yeast and fungi in your gut where as a healthy diet helps the good bacteria to flourish and restore your health.
Probiotics are also essential for optimum digestion of food and nutrient absorption. Probiotics help your body produce vitamins, absorb minerals and aid in the elimination of toxins. The gut bacteria are very vulnerable to lifestyle and environmental factors such as: sugar, processed foods, antibiotics you take and the ones ingested in foods, chlorinated and fluorinated water, pesticides and agricultural chemicals, pollution and refined grains(wheat/rye/barley). All of these factors throw your gut flora out of balance!
How Do I Know I Need Probiotics?
If you have gas, bloat, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, sugar and carb cravings, headaches, nausea, IBS etc--then you already know that your gut bacteria are "out of wack." What you may not know is that your gut makes up 80% of your immune system--so healthy digestion equals a strong immue system! And, one more thing--your gut is your second brain!!! Really--during fetal development, the brain and the digestive tract all are formed from the same tissue--the tissue just splits and one part forms the brain and one part forms the digestive tract. This is why poor digestive tract health (LEAKY GUT included) can cause depression, mood swings, anxiety etc And then your "shrink" prescribes Prosac, Paxil, Xanax, Elavil etc--instead of inquiring about your digestive health--ha, ha --a novel thought!!! But this is for another blog post!!!
So what is a "good" probiotic?
- One that has specific bacteria strains that have specific "health-promoting" features
- The bacteria strains must be able to survive any stomach acid and bile so that they reach the intestines in large numbers and are still alive!
- The probiotic acitvity must be guaranteed(what good are 50 billion organisims per capsule if most of them are already dead from poor shipping and storage).
Lactobacillus acidophilus is NOT a "good" probiotic.
Don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger!! The latest scientific literalture clearly establishes the fact that L. acidophilus is only "better than nothing at all" in patients on antibiotics on a short term basis but there are many better strains of bacteria with more proven health-promoting features than L. acidophilus. And, there are specific strains of bacteria for specific gut problems. Surely, I will get "hate' comments about this so if I do, I will go into this subject more in depth on the next blog post!