As soon as you leave your house, you encounter foreign microbes — unseen bugs that can make you sick. The best defense against harmful microbes may be beneficial microbes: probiotics. By helping your body defend against digestive ills, these tiny organisms promote strengthened immunity, an improved mood, more brain power and even better hormone balance.
Protect Against Traveler’s Blues
Summer vacations are important for our health and well-being. They offer new experiences, new adventure, rejuvenation and relaxation. But vacations can also come with their own set of health risks, particularly in terms of digestive health. Many seasoned travelers know all too well the digestive challenges that often “come with the territory,” so to speak. The main culprit: foreign microbes.
During all our excursions, from long-distance travel to local camping trips, we come into contact with foreign microbes that can enter the digestive tract and result in chronic digestive problems that can be mild or distressingly severe. To complicate matters, these health issues can be very difficult to diagnose.
The good news: You can prevent harmful bacteria and pathogens from wreaking havoc throughout your body by maintaining beneficial bacteria — aka probiotics or “friendly flora” — in your digestive tract. This is done by supplementing with probiotics and cultured foods containing beneficial bacteria (common examples are sauerkraut and yogurt) and limiting substances such as antibiotics and caffeine that destroy helpful flora. By increasing and strengthening the levels of healthy bacteria in your body, you decrease your chances of suffering from digestive imbalances. In addition, probiotics can improve your overall health in a number of other ways.
The Foundation Of Wellness
For many reasons, optimal digestion is a central focus of any health program. Influencing complete nutrient absorption, immune health, hormone balance, cognitive function and more, digestive health directly affects a wide range of critical processes in the body. And many of these digestive-related functions hinge on the presence of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. New studies are revealing insights into the far-reaching health benefits, complexity and uniqueness of the friendly microbes that live in and around us and offer numerous health advantages. One of the beneficial microbes being studied is Saccharomyces boulardii.
A Friend Indeed
S. boulardii is a non-pathogenic, widely studied variety of yeast that thrives in the digestive system and provides numerous health benefits. This means that S. boulardii colonization in the gut is healthy, unlike the actions of harmful yeasts such as Candida albicans.
Widely used in Europe for many years, S. boulardii produces beneficial effects for both children and adults in treating and preventing diarrhea caused by acute microbial infections, antibiotic use and a number of chronic digestive disorders. Studies done on tourists found that the ingestion of S. boulardii significantly reduced the incidence of traveler’s diarrhea that occurs when foreign microbes enter the system.
Important Information For Anyone Taking Antibiotics
Some antibiotics, though they may be lifesaving, can cause serious harm to the digestive system. For example, Pseudomembranous colitis is a serious complication that can result from use of certain medications.
Antibiotics may be necessary for acute infections, but they also kill the beneficial bacterial populations in the digestive tract, allowing harmful microbes to take over. One particularly deleterious bacteria overgrowth that can occur from antibiotic use is called Clostridium difficile. This bacterium produces toxins that can cause very serious and potentially life-threatening diarrhea. Consequently, if you take antibiotics for the diarrhea, you set up a vicious cycle that leads to further difficulties. However, studies on S. boulardii show excellent results in preventing the reoccurrence of this dangerous type of colitis.
In addition, S. boulardii has been shown to stimulate immune antibody production specifically targeted against the C. difficile toxin. It also stimulates the production of enzymes in the digestive tract that help to break down this serious toxin and inhibits the growth of the harmful Clostridium. If you are taking antibiotics or have taken them in the past, including S. boulardii and other probiotic strains in your daily program can help protect your digestive and overall health naturally.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Actions
S. boulardii communicates with the organism in which it lives (you!) and can help regulate inflammation throughout the body. It does this by modifying inflammatory pathways and inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. At the same time, S. boulardii promotes the body’s production of natural anti-inflammatory chemicals to help keep inflammation in check, an essential key to long-term health and vitality.
Other beneficial bacteria with anti-inflammatory actions include the common probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Healthy Gut Flora Benefits Mood
Studies have illuminated the connections between the brain and beneficial bacteria while highlighting the many ways these friendly flora affect our cognitive abilities and moods. Recently, it was shown that the presence of healthy probiotic flora in the gut during infancy regulates serotonin levels throughout life. Serotonin is a main neurochemical responsible for our mental and emotional well-being. Other investigations have shown that an absence of healthy flora in the gut increases anxiety and neurotic behavior in experimental models. Increasing intake of probiotics can help lessen depression.
Truly Beneficial Bacteria
Science is only now beginning to understand the complex range of benefits and key roles of probiotics in promoting and maintaining numerous critical areas of health. Studies show that beneficial bacteria enhance and regulate immune function, increase nutrient breakdown and assimilation, support cognitive development and do much more.
Saccharomyces boulardii and other beneficial flora are great allies in the ever-broadening family of beneficial organisms that provide protection from disease and help us stay healthy. Keep these friends on hand to prevent and treat digestive imbalances if you have to take antibiotics or you want to increase your overall health and well-being. Pack some in your travel bag if you are planning a trip: It may save you from the real “traveler’s blues” and allow you to enjoy your long-awaited vacation. For more tips on maintaining digestive health and wellness, visit www.dreliaz.org.