A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

To Probiotic, or Not to Probiotic

Content Warning: Frank discussion of gross but fascinating science stuff and possible TMI follows.

Bacteria. It’s invisible, and yet hugely a part of our lives. It can help us maintain a state of good health or it can kill us, and each and every human being is in possession of an entire colony of gut bacteria that helps us with the process of digesting food. When we die, the bacteria we’re already toting around eats us and helps us to turn back into dirt (insert song ‘Circle of Life’ here…)

When we get sick and a doctor prescribes an antibiotic to help us get well, the antibiotic can’t differentiate between the invading bacteria that are making us ill and our helpful colonies of digestive gut bacteria, so both die. This is why some people experience digestive problems during and after antibiotic treatments. How long it takes our helpful gut bacteria to recover after antibiotic treatments and how best to help them recover is a matter still open to debate and probably varies a lot from person to person.

My husband takes a daily probiotic pill to treat his IBS. IBS is the condition he has that causes him to digest food much too quickly, thus failing to put on body weight despite consuming a high calorie diet. Although eating what you please sounds nice, believe me – what he goes through isn’t worth it. My dad recommended he add a daily probiotic pill to his diet and pleasantly, it has improved his condition a great deal.

Usually, when I’m taking antibiotics for an illness, I eat a serving of yogurt containing live cultures every day and for at least a week following treatment to try and help my gut bacteria recover from the process. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the flavor of yogurt and I hate spending calories on a food I don’t like very much, so after a round of antibiotics used to treat a sinus infection last winter I just swallowed one of my husband’s probiotic pills every day instead.

It seemed to work fine, and though I don’t suffer from IBS I decided to keep on taking one every day. We checked with our GP and Doctors view probiotics as being not harmful and potentially helpful, but the jury is still out on just how much good they really do.

I decided to keep taking one every day after reading this article and also this one about how a woman with a naturally low body weight rapidly gained 50 lbs. after receiving an intestinal bacterial transplant from a person with a naturally higher body weight to treat a stubborn GI infection. It looked as though someone’s gut bacteria and the way it functions might be at least partly responsible for how much they weigh.

It’s not a smoking gun per se, it’s also entirely possible that the woman gained weight because she was sick with a GI-related illness and after getting healthy she put some weight on as healthy people do. However, scientists performed studies on rats and found that when they transplanted bacteria from the intestines of fat rats into those of thin rats – the thin rats quickly got fat and vice versa. And that gave me pause.

So I’m not yet going out and seeking an FMT transplant from a skinny person because… well… ew, but I figured doing something every day to help my existing colony of gut bacteria have a happy and healthy life certainly can’t hurt. I have noticed that my digestive motility, which is usually on the annoyingly slow side, has sped up since I began the regimen. Regularity is a good thing, at least.

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