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Eating 'bugs' is a good idea

Millions of Americans with generalized anxiety disorder, grief,

Millions of Americans with generalized anxiety disorder, grief, depression and panic attacks may benefit from probiotics. Credit: iStock

Dear Pharmacist: You’re sort of obsessed with gut health because you frequently suggest probiotics to people seeking better health. I don’t take probiotics but I do appreciate your perspective. Not one of 14 doctors over six years has ever suggested probiotics. What’s the big deal? --R.M., Ocala, Fla.

Hmm, maybe you would not have needed 14 doctors if any one of them had warned you of the adverse health consequences of microflora deficiency? Think allergies, irritable bowel, depression, hypothyroidism, cancer and autoimmune disorders galore. The ramifications for poor probiotic status cause disease from head to toe. There are more than 100 trillion microbes that live inside you, that’s more than the number of actual cells that form you into a human being. You are merely the sum of the bacteria inside you, so it’s critical that the good organisms outnumber the bad ones, or else disease sets in. People who enjoy good health, do so because of their strong immune system which powers up at birth, with an assortment of healthy bacteria obtained from mother’s milk.

Love your skin? You can thank your bacteria for that. Do you enjoy eating food without the discomfort of heartburn and bleeding ulcers? Thank your gut bugs because they are keeping the invaders (like H. pylori) at bay. Never get sick? Let’s hear it for the bugs! By occupying various niches in the intricate landscape of our bodies, our resident microbes protect us from foreign bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Many well-designed studies prove this.

To improve the ratio of good to bad microbes I recommend taking probiotic supplements, sold by some physicians and at health food stores.

Everyone associates probiotic supplements with gastrointestinal health and relief of constipation but probiotics are great for skin health, weight, staying healthy as we head into cough and cold season (hint, hint), lifting depression and believe it or not, thyroid health. Yes, that healthy bacterial garden in your gut activates approximately 30 percent of your thyroid hormone, which in turn boosts energy and burns fat.

We all have a unique “flora fingerprint.” No two are the same among humans. You can change your flora easily, with every meal. For example, eat a cinnamon bun and you’ve easily demolished millions of happy, healthy bacteria.

All prescribed or over-the-counter medications reduce your probiotic bacterial stash so I’m disappointed to hear that not one of your 14 practitioners suggested a probiotic to restore gut flora. You must put back what medication stole or you’ll pay with your health. With probiotic supplementation, results are immediate, usually within days to weeks. Oh, and yogurt, is probably the worst way to take in probiotics since the organisms are likely dead by the time you eat it, and the dairy provides a strong casein and lactose hit. And other stuff. I’m picky about probiotics and this is a complex topic so I have put an extended version of this article at my website