Spring is here which means summer is just around the corner. It is not normally a time people associate with a lowered immune system, however while colds and flus may diminish, the gut can still be susceptible to infections such as rotavirus, campylobacter, salmonella and giardia – just to name a few – all of which can be debilitating.
Most people these days are aware of the benefits that probiotics have on the digestive system in keeping the balance of good bacteria in the gut and providing a health benefit for the lungs and skin. Up to 70 – 80% of the body’s immune response starts in the gut with probiotics mediating most immune situations, whether it be an allergic response or the cold or flu. And of course probiotics help keep the digestive tract clear of any pathogens that might directly infect it, hence the summer need for probiotics that are known to aid in the prevention of these infections, and to aid with their removal.
As the weather warms up and more people have barbeques and warm weather gatherings an over consumption of food and alcohol can overload the gut’s good bacteria, diverting them away from their immune tasks by having to help process all the incoming food and drink.
Summer time gut infections can affect a lot of people. New Zealand, due to its outdoor living and agricultural lifestyle has many cases of giardia and Cryptosporidium reported every year as well as rotovirus cases. In New Zealand, rotavirus is responsible for 1500 hospital admissions of children under five years of age each year. Rotovirus and giardia are contagious so it is often common to find households all coming down with it, even if only one person initially picked it up.
The source of these infections is normally from infected animal faeces or food, food left out and not stored properly, or as is probably most of the cases, coming in contact with an area infected by someone who has not washed their hands properly.
The symptoms can range from vomiting, to severe watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and mild fever. In most cases the symptoms pass within a few days, however in some cases they can last a few weeks.
How can it be treated with conventional medicine?
Normally treatment involves oral rehydration fluids that replace water, electrolytes (replacing the missing salts) and sometime glucose. These may have to be spoon fed gradually to children when symptoms are severe. Hydration and patience seem to the key here, but of course seek medical help if the symptoms persist longer than few days or become debilitating.
Probiotics can have a protective effect against gut infections and if used at the time of infection can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Studies indicate that the probiotic Lactobacillus GG has a positive effect of strengthening the walls of the small intestines and increases the production of protective antibodies. 1In fact the Lactobacillus GG (lactobacillus rhamnosus) adheres strongly to the intestinal wall without damaging the intestinal mucosa. 2 Finally it was shown that probiotics stimulate an immune response in the digestive system when local invaders are detected.3
A lot of gut pathogens are opportunistic and invade when there are not sufficient numbers of good bowel bacteria to crowd them out or fight them off. By taking a probiotic such as Lactobacillus GG we can help prevent gut infections and also aid their removal.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG seems to work well Bifodobacterium animalis BB-12 for a multitude of gut infectious conditions whether they be viral or bacterial in origin.
So this summer have these two probiotics handy, especially if you are camping or in a rural area, or even if you are travelling to a different part of the country or travelling overseas. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifodobacterium animalis BB-12 can be beneficial to strengthen digestive immunity and may help to reduce the duration of symptoms like diarrhoea.
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1 In-Tele-Health © 2013 (from Hyperhealth Pro CD-ROM)