There is even mounting evidence that a healthy gut microbiota helps maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown, for example, that when bacteria from a genetically fat mouse are placed in a lean germ-free mouse, it gains weight without changing its food intake.
Unfortunately poor diets are hurting the bacteria in many of us and the overuse of antibiotics is taking its toll as well, she says, particularly the common, broad spectrum antibiotics that wipe out anything in their path, good and bad bacteria included.
Diarrhea is an extremely common consequence of disturbing the natural balance of your gut's microbiota. In generally healthy individuals, a good diet, rich in fiber, protein and low in fat, will quickly help restore good bacteria. But in older individuals or those with an underlying condition, probiotics may be needed to avoid potentially deadly problems such as overgrowth of bad bacterium like Clostridium difficile. When that bacteria starts to thrive, it can result in an extremely enlarged colon that must be removed and, even then, about 80 percent of patients die.
To avoid such havoc, it's important that you pull the right live bugs off the shelf and that they survive to reach the lower gut, Ms. Cresci says of fragile bacteria that can be lambasted by gastric juices or killed off by even a short-term exposure to ambient heat.
The right combination is essential as well. "A lot of these probiotics have only one bacterium but we have trillions of colony forming units in our gut," she says. There is mounting evidence that one of the best ways to quickly restore the complex gut complement is by using feces from
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia