Health Tips


Tuesday, 22nd February 2011

By GNC Health Buzz |


By the Medical Advisory Board of GNC

When we think about microbes, we often remember back to our high school biology class on the classification of different types of living things in the world – plants, animals and others.  The others included the thousands of different types of seemingly nasty microscopic creatures including bacteria that exist on every surface and soil in the world.  However, we may not have learned about the “good” microbes that live and often thrive within our own body and provide us many health benefits.

These microbes exist within our intestinal tract and work with our digestive system to help breakdown the food we eat and extract beneficial nutrients.  They also work with our immune defensive system to help break down and eliminate toxins, and alert our immune systems to danger.  Like most living systems these microbes are in a constant struggle to maintain balance within our bodies.  Certain foods and other types of microbes can upset this balance.  We can rapidly tell when our digestive system is out of balance and will quickly seek out ways to correct it.

Over the counter medications and prescription medications for intestinal health make up the largest group of medications in the world.  You could easily list 10 or more — anti-acid, anti-gas, anti-burp, anti-loose bowels, anti-constipation, the list goes on and on.  The fact is, to maintain good digestive health we must both watch what we eat and provide a good home for these helpful but unseen microbes within.  Consuming foods that are high in fats and sugars, have abnormally high or low acid, taking antibiotics which can wipe out the good microbes, or consuming foods tainted with foreign microbes can all wreak havoc on our good resident microbes.  This results in fewer numbers of microbes to assist our digestion, and also can allow an over growth of the foreign “bad microbes” in our intestines for which we will suffer accordingly.

What Can Be Done To Help Our Intestines?

The idea of improved digestive and immune health through better intestinal microbe function is not new.  The concept of promoting and ingesting beneficial strains of microbes has been advocated since the early 1900′s with the discoveries of the digestive microbes Bifidobacterium, Lactob acillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus.  As a group, these healthy microbes are called Probiotics, which means “for life”.  Probiotics have been found naturally in many milk and yogurt products.  Today, Probiotics can also be taken as a capsule supplement or most recently inside a piece of chocolate.

The key to consuming Probiotics is to:

a.) Allow the good microbes to survive the passage through stomach digestion to be alive when entering the intestine, and

b.) To be active enough once they reach the intestine to actually live and grow in order to displace unhealthy microbes that may be existing already.

This is quite a task but at GNC there are now a number of Probiotic products that can exceed in both survivability and colonization using specialized coating techniques.

The key to using Probiotics successfully is daily use and also to attempt to avoid foods that can potentially wipe out your good intestinal flora or not support it.  There is now a large body of research which shows that to enhance your healthy intestinal microbe’s survivability, you can also consider taking a Prebiotic.  This consists mostly of non-digestible foods, such as soluble fiber, that can enter the intestine mostly unchanged to provide a food source for the microbes to remain healthy.  With stronger and healthier number of “good microbes” you will enjoy the benefits of better digestive balance and improved immune health.

Please consider both Probiotics and Prebiotics for your digestive needs.  The Medical Advisory Board at GNC is dedicated to provide you information you can use to live well.