Monday, November 19, 2007

Pro Biotics Pro Pro Biotics

Quick and dirty: if you or your kids have tummy troubles, try taking probiotics. They've been shown to relieve diarrhea and recent research shows they may help reduce colic in unhappy babies, maybe indicating that those sad little people are just (loudly) protesting the state of their intestines. Breastfeeding itself helps maintain beneficial gut flora, but mothers taking probiotics while pregnant/breastfeeding may improve on "gut immunity and probiotic supplementation for formula-fed kids may be helpful in preventing them from getting diarrhea.

The basic idea behind probiotics is that they may help restore balance to the flora in your gut, which live in delicate balance. Antibiotics or stress or illness can wipe out all the bacteria in your gut, giving diarrhea-causing flora a vacuum to fill. Probiotics are supposed to perform the reverse service, kicking out bad bacteria and allowing good bacteria to recolonize your gut. My kids' pediatrician recommended them for me while breastfeeding to pass along to my colicky baby, and to get rid of thrush (a fungal/yeast-based illness). She also prescribed probiotics to prevent diarrhea when my kids needed to take antibiotics. Apparently, research shows that probiotics help alleviate excema and milk allergies in children as well. We now use probiotics with success whenever tummy trouble's an issue for the kids, no matter the cause.

There are multiple strains of probiotics and most doctors I've talked to recommend getting at least three strains in a supplement at one time. Unfortunately, although research is promising regarding supplementation, probiotics are regulated as food and the exact strains found in supplements can vary, so go to a reputable store or pharmacy and talk to a knowledgeable person about which brand to buy. This table catalogues which specific benefits have been attributed to which specific strains (the particular strains matter), and designates brands/suppliers carrying tested probiotic strains. As you might imagine, most products containing research-tested strains of probiotics trumpet this fact in their marketing.

To get the benefits of probiotics, adults can eat yogurt (make your own! it's easy) or drink kefir (yogurt drinks), take pills or buy specially fermented probiotic beverages (holy bleccch in my opinion, BatMama, but my yeast-prone neighbor swears by them). For the kiddoes you can dissolve capsules in water to administer by eyedropper (infants) or give them chewable supplements, yogurt, or kefir (yogurt drinks). EGirl loves the orange flavor of these kid-marketed kefir drinks so we (occasionally, as they fit perfectly into the Whole Paycheck pricing structure) stick them in her lunchbag. Probiotic supplements need to be refrigerated so look in the cold case in the nutrition section of your local health food store.

May your legions of gut flora be well-balanced and strong!

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