Summer vacations and traveling adventures can do wonders for your heart, mind and spirit, but they can also take a toll on your physical health if you’re not careful. Many travelers understand first-hand the unfortunate risks to digestive health that often “come with the territory,” so to speak. Travelling, backpacking, even a simple camping trip (among other routes of exposure) can introduce foreign microbes to the digestive tract, resulting in mild to severe digestive problems that may be difficult to diagnose. But if you keep the beneficial bacteria colonies in your gut healthy and strong, your chances of suffering from such digestive imbalances are far less, regardless of whether you’re in a new place or your own backyard. In addition, beneficial bacteria can strengthen your overall health in a number of ways.
Digestive Health is the Cornerstone of Vitality
Optimal digestion is truly the cornerstone of any health restoration and maintenance program, for many reasons. From complete nutrient absorption to immune health, and even brain and neurotransmitter function, digestive health directly influences a wide range of critical processes in the body. And much of these digestive-related functions hinge on the presence of healthy bacteria colonies in the digestive tract. New studies are revealing insights into the far-reaching health benefits, complexity and uniqueness of the friendly bacteria which live in and around us, flourishing under the right conditions. One of the most beneficial strains being studied is called Saccharomyces boulardii.
A Friendly Bacteria
S. boulardii is a beneficial (“friendly”) yeast that can thrive in our digestive systems, so it is considered “non-pathogenic.” This means that S. bouliardii colonization in the gut is healthy and beneficial, unlike pathogenic yeasts such as Candida albicans. Widely used in Europe now for many years, numerous studies have demonstrated S. boulardii’s beneficial effects in both treating and preventing diarrhea, which occurs in a wide variety of circumstances including acute microbial infections, antibiotic use, and in a number of chronic gastrointestinal disorders.
Studies have shown that this friendly yeast reduced the incidence of acute diarrhea in adults and children. Studies done on travelers found that the ingestion of S. boulardii significantly reduced the incidence of traveler’s diarrhea which occurs when foreign microbes enter the system. Taking S. boulardii can also help prevent the onset of diarrhea as a side effect of antibiotic use.
Important Information for Anyone Taking Antibiotics
Pseudomembranous colitis is a serious digestive complication which can occur with the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics may be necessary for acute infections, but they also kill the beneficial bacterial populations in the digestive tract, and allow harmful bacteria and microbes to take over. One particularly bad bacteria overgrowth that can occur with some antibiotic use is called Clostridium difficile. This bacterium produces toxins that can cause very serious and potentially life-threatening diarrhea, which is then treated with more antibiotics, creating a vicious cycle. However, studies on our friend S. boulardii are showing excellent results in the prevention and recurrence of this dangerous type of colitis. In addition, S. boulardii has been shown to stimulate immune antibody production against the C. difficile toxin specifically, as well as stimulate the production of enzymes in the digestive tract that help to break down this serious toxin. S. boulardii also inhibits the growth and reproduction of the harmful Clostridium bacteria. If you are taking antibiotics or have taken them in the past, including S. boulardii in your daily program can help protect your digestive and overall health naturally.
Help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Another digestive condition helped by S. boulardii is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is characterized by a group of chronic digestive symptoms including abdominal pain often accompanied by multiple, loose stools. S. boulardii again comes to the rescue, proving its ability to normalize the stool and reduce the number of daily bowel movements. Anyone experiencing IBS should see a qualified practitioner who assesses for bacterial overgrowth, parasites, inflammatory markers, food sensitivities, etc., which can all contribute to the symptoms of IBS.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Actions
S. boulardii also 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. S. boulardii also 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.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a great ally in the ever broadening family of beneficial organisms which provide protection from disease and help keep us healthy. Keep S. boulardii in mind if you ever get a case of diarrhea, have to take antibiotics, or develop a candida overgrowth. Pack some S. boulardii in your travel bag if you are planning a trip, as it may save you from the real “traveler’s blues” and allow you to enjoy your long awaited vacation.
By Dr. Isaac Eliaz M.D., L.Ac., M.S.
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