AUGUSTA, Ga. Healthy eating, not supplements, is the best way to keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy, says a dietitian and researcher.
As with vitamins, it's best to get the bacteria you need from healthy food rather than taking often expensive and potentially ineffective supplements, says Gail Cresci, Medical College of Georgia dietitian and researcher.
"Consumers are buying stuff like crazy that is probably not even helping them and could potentially hurt them," says Ms. Cresci, assistant professor of surgery at the MCG School of Medicine and winner of the 2009 Excellence in Practice Award for Clinical Nutrition by the American Dietetic Association.
Increasing awareness of the benefit some of these organisms play in sickness and in health has resulted in an explosion of prebiotic and probiotic additives and products marketed directly to consumers. It's also created confusion even among nutrition and other health care experts about how best to use them, says Ms. Cresci, who prescribes them to help surgery patients recover and works in the lab to learn more about their potential. She discussed the latest findings about their implications for clinical practice at the association's 2009 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Denver, Oct. 17-20.
She equates the good bacterium in your gastrointestinal tract to another living being inside that helps keep you healthy. "If you do good by your bacteria, they will do good by you," Ms. Cresci says.
There are about 800 bacterial species with more than 7,000 strains inhabiting the average gut and even though many sound similar they likely aren't: a little Lactobacillus acidophilus combined with some Lactobacillus bifidus, for example, has been shown extremely beneficial in preventing antibiotic-induced diarrhea while Lactobacillus bulgaricus with some Streptococcus thermophilus is useless.
"You need to be careful," Ms. Cresci says. "You don't just give
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia