Healthy bacteria. Is there really such a thing? You bet there is. Lactobacillus bacteria (most notably acidophilus and bifidus) live in your intestines as a critical ally to your overall internal health. This bacteria helps to break down your food for optimal digestion and assimilation, detoxify your digestive tract, lower the risk of funky pathogenic infection and even aids in the production of B vitamins. This healthy bacteria, or flora, also plays a role in the maintenance and strengthening of your immune system. In this way, it’s kind of like your “in-house” antibiotics, as it fights against the intruding bad forms of bacteria, like citrobacter or E. coli.
Unfortunately, many things from our external environment, including chlorine (in tap water), fluoride, alcohol, and yes, prescribed antibiotics, all conspire against it. And since there truly is strength in numbers in the case of your flora, the fewer of these little guys there are (and they do number in the billions, by the way), the less effective they can be in doing their job. Which brings us to the subject of probiotics.
Whenever we ingest a food or supplement that contains this healthy bacteria, it’s known as a probiotic. Certain fermented foods, for example, are renowned for having probiotic qualities, like miso, sauerkraut and pickles, which are fermented versions of soy, cabbage and cucumbers. And if you’ve ever heard about yogurt being “good for your stomach,” it is the healthy bacteria that is cultivated in its fermentation process that is getting the nod. The problem with yogurt, of course, is that its many downsides as a mucous forming, highly acidic, animal unfriendly dairy product far outweigh any incidental benefits you might get from picking up a little acidophilus. Soy yogurt or other plant-based probiotics are better choices.
That said, the best way to replenish your flora population is through a brief two-week program of taking a probiotic everyday on an empty stomach. My personal favorite is a product called Grainfields Australia. (Click here to see some of their different product options.) This is a carbonated beverage that, like most acidophilus supplements, will require refrigeration. It tastes kind of like unsweetened apple cider. It’s available at certain health food markets or online.
Otherwise, look for another non-dairy probiotic in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. Or, if you decide to go with a probiotic in tablet form, no prob. Just make sure that tablet (or capsule) is enteric coated, so that the good bacteria will bypass the acids in stomach and wind up in your intestinal tract, where it belongs.