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Send in the pro

A new survey shows that millions are unaware that their digestive tracks are teeming with bacteria. Too bad. They have no idea how fortunate they are.

Results of a survey commissioned by a Dutch nutritional company show that many Americans are unsure if they’ve recently eaten foods with ingredients that promote gastrointestinal health.

The implication: Millions of U.S. consumers have no idea that certain foods can nurture probiotic organisms; the beneficial bacteria in the body that perform key functions, such as aiding digestion, supporting immune function, eliminating toxins and fighting harmful bacteria.

Striving for balance

There are two things about probiotics that everyone should know (and one thing that everyone with irritable bowel syndrome MUST know).

1) When you use antibiotics, your body needs probiotics

The balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in your digestive tract is fragile and can be easily disturbed by antibiotic use. In fact, some antibiotic drugs can completely kill off the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

In the e-Alert “The Pro Shop” (11/14/02), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., noted: “Bacteria all operate similarly metabolically. That’s why probiotics must be taken with any anti-bacterial attempt.” And that includes natural antibiotics like olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract and colloidal silver.

In addition, steroid drugs, birth control pills and chemotherapy can upset gut flora. And stress, trauma, surgery, parasitic infestation and poor nutrition can also impair intestinal bacteria. When the balance of good and bad bacteria tips toward a dominance of harmful bacteria, disease and gastrointestinal distress often follow.

Living cultures

2) Where to get probiotics

Start with food.

Intestinal flora can be maintained by consuming cultured products such as yogurt and kefir. But be sure to read nutrition labels to determine if the products actually contain living cultures.

The digestive tract can be “recolonized” by introducing enough good bacteria to overpower bad bacteria, but dietary sources alone can’t provide organisms in the vast numbers required to correct an imbalance. That job usually requires a high-potency probiotic nutritional supplement.

In previous e-Alerts and HSI Members Alerts we’ve told you about two products that can be useful. Culturelle contains a potent strain of good bacteria called Lactobacillus G.G. When refrigerated, Culturelle is guaranteed to provide 30 billion live microorganisms per capsule. It has also been shown to be completely free of competing strains or harmful contamination. You can find more information about Culturelle on the web site for Vitamin Research Products:

And in the e-Alert “Enchiladas and Beer” (5/30/02), I told you about a formula called Probiotics 12 Plus, which contains a bled of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and a dozen different strains of live lactic acid bacteria, including a proprietary strain called TH 10, which inhibits all strains of H. pylori – the bacterium responsible for peptic ulcers. Probiotics 12 Plus is manufactured by Uni Key Health Systems (

Calm the irritable

Finally, all patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should know that probiotics might be a key to successful treatment.

In the HSI Healthier Talk Community forums a member named Mariet writes: “I can tell you from personal experience that probiotics will get rid of IBS. I’ve been taking them for about a month and I am amazed at how well they work.”

And here’s what Dr. Spreen has to offer about probiotics for IBS: “I absolutely would be giving probiotics for such a problem, along with any agents that might assist strengthening the intestinal wall, such as FOS (fructo-oligo-saccharides), which helps the ‘good’ bugs to reestablish, aloe juice, which has a long history of calming bowel problems, essential fatty acids, and digestive enzymes (which are usually under produced in such situations).”

Talk to your doctor or a health care professional before using a probiotic supplement, especially when treating IBS.

and another thing

When we think of tick bites – especially during summer months – we generally think first of Lyme disease. But there’s more to ticks than Lyme.

An HSI member named Domenic writes: “I recently visited a farm of live stock, 3 days latter I discover a tick lodged at the base of my spine. I removed the tick using a pair of tweezers and there wasn’t any blood mark where the tick was lodged. Now I have a small lump were the tick was. Can you advise what course of action should I take?”

First step: Save the tick. This advice may come too late for Domenic, but those who remove ticks should save them in a plastic bag or a small container. That tick will come in handy if there’s any question later on about a Lyme disease diagnosis.

Although cases of disease other than Lyme being contracted by tick bite are relatively rare, they do occur. So in the days following a tick bite, be alert for these symptoms of Lyme and other diseases:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Rash
  • Unusual muscle ache or joint pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

Call you doctor immediately if any of these symptoms develop.

You’ve probably heard that a red bulls-eye pattern around a tick bite indicates Lyme disease. So watch for that pattern, but keep in mind that the bulls-eye appears in less then half of all cases of the disease.

For more information about Lyme disease, see the e-Alert “Lyme Time” (6/29/05), which you can find at this link:

“U.S. Consumers Still Don’t Understand Probiotics, Finds DSM” NutraIngredients-USA, 8/8/06,