The study of the “gut microbiota”, which is the massive number of tiny organisms living in our intestines (>1,000,000,000,000 per gram contents), is one of the most exciting areas in medical science. Most every aspect of our health is influenced by these intestinal microbes. Excellent studies reveal an influence on gut motility, digestion and gut integrity, immunity and allergic disorders, metabolic disorders including diabetes and obesity, production of certain nutrients and much more.
As I said before, claims are often exaggerated. Many practitioners and sellers of supplements, in their enthusiasm and possibly greed, have gotten ahead of the science. For that reason, I will be very cautious in recommending probiotic supplements and will mostly focus on natural means to keep the gut and it’s microbes functioning healthily together . There will be times, however, when function is severely disrupted by infection or antibiotics in which probiotic supplements may be very helpful. In addition, most of the well designed studies have been done with probiotics in capsule or granular forms rather than foods so we do have to give credence to their benefits.
Also, as I mentioned last time, traditional medicine has a conservative bent which protects against charlatanism and fads. Unfortunately, it also slows legitimate progress in many areas. The persistence of “low fat” diets against all evidence is exhibit A. I believe that the understanding and application of gut microbe science may be hindered in similar ways. Time will tell. Coming posts will go into more specific detail.