good bacteria, bad bacteria

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the benefits of probiotics, which are  microorganisms that help your stomach (via your small intestine) establish a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria.

Although not everyone needs to take probiotics, most of us could benefit from them.  Since most of our immune system is housed in our gut, it’s important that we all take measures to keep it as healthy as possible! This is especially important for people who have taken antibiotics recently (within the past six months).  Antibiotics don’t know the difference between good and bad bacteria in your stomach, so they try to kill them all.  This is great because you get better; but not so great because your stomach is then left to try to build up its defenses with good bacteria.

Probiotics are helpful for other puruposes, too. Studies have shown they can help prevent colon cancer, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce inflammation in your body, calm irritable bowel syndrome, and improve your immune system overall.

So how can you get your daily dose of probiotics? Although many foods now have added probiotics (such as Activa yogurt), I prefer supplements.  You can generally find them in a health food store.  My brands of choice are Metagenics and Udo’s.   If you’re new to probiotics, start off small: take half the recommended amount and work up to the full dosage. Though it shouldn’t cause any problems, some people with sensitive stomachs may react to them if they don’t work up to the proper dosage.

Not a fan of supplements? Try eating plain yogurt or fermented foods such as sauerkraut.  (Note: If you are taking antibiotics, wait until you have finished the course before you eat yogurt, as the dairy can decrease the effectiveness of the antibiotics).

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