Your Health: Maintaining good digestive health
November 15, 2013
Craig — If you suffer from obesity or irritable bowel syndrome, perhaps bacteria can help.
Doctors and universities across the world currently are knee-deep in research, trying to figure out how "good" bacteria can help fight IBS and obesity and ward off colon cancer.
"There are billions of bacteria in your GI tract. Those bacteria are just now being understood," said Gregory Austin, MD, who is the head of the Luminal Section Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at University of Colorado, Denver.
So how do you introduce healthy bacteria into your system? One word: probiotics.
"Probiotics is a live bacteria," said Jamie Alperin, registered dietitian and owner of Dietary Designs LLC, a Yampa Valley-based dietary company. "The gut has a certain amount of bacteria, good and bad."
The good bacteria can help fight off bloating and help offset problems with food allergies, she said.
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"They call your gut your second brain. If your gut is not functioning well, it's going to cause problems," Alperin said. "It does affect all areas of your body and immune system. It has so much control over your body. If your gut isn't profusing well, it can have all sorts of negative impacts on your body and your overall health."
For example, those who have food allergies to gluten or dairy might consider taking a probiotic pill to help combat digestive issues.
"One thing it can help with is getting someone over those allergies by restoring the gut functions," Alperin said.
Interestingly enough, within the billions of bacteria inside your gut, there are thousands of different types of bacteria — a reason why research on stomach bacteria is a long, drawn-out process.
"We're still figuring out what bacteria is there," Dr. Austin said.
Perhaps an exciting aspect of researching such bacteria is that it actually might help people lose weight.
"I'm involved in a study here, taking samples from patients before and after weight-loss surgery. (Bacteria) actually seems to play a roll in something we don't quite understand yet," Dr. Austin said. "We've put them in animals that are free of bacteria, and they actually lost weight."
Therefore, researchers and doctors are starting to test bacteria transplants with humans to see if it does in fact aid in weight loss, fight IBS and help prevent colon cancer.
"We're doing a lot of research," he said.
Probiotics currently are on the shelves of local grocers, Walgreens and at Health Works, located at 2035 W. Victory Way.
Daniel Wright, owner of Health Works, carries a wide variety of probiotics and has educated himself on the bacteria.
"My preference is to take probiotics long term," he said, adding that it's important to finish an entire bottle so that the bacteria's lifecycle remains constant in the body.
Doctors often recommend that patients take probiotics with antibiotics.
Antibiotics kill bacteria throughout the body. Therefore, re-introducing bacteria can help maintain your gut health, Alperin said.
The most important thing to understand is that eating a good diet full of fruits and veggies ultimately is the best way to maintain a healthy stomach, Dr. Austin said.
Noelle Leavitt Riley can be reached at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com.