For us, alerting our patients to new ways to boost immunity or rebound from illness quickly is one of the best parts of the job. Given last year’s notoriously bad flu season, now is the perfect time for doctors and pharmacists to give advice to patients who should be more receptive to our advice than ever.
Over the coming months, we’ll all be repeating the classic methods of avoiding cold and flu on a constant loop: wash your hands, get the flu shot, cough or sneeze into your elbow, repeat. But in addition to the classics, all of us as health care professionals have an opportunity to expand the conversation with customers and patients to include probiotics, which can help the body’s immune system protect itself from germs.
A huge amount of the immune system is in the GI tract. As such, setting the gut up for optimal health is of utmost importance when it comes to increasing immunity. Probiotics go a long way in helping maintain a balanced community of microorganisms in our systems and stabilizing our digestive and vaginal tracts’ barriers against “bad” bacteria. In addition to taking a probiotic, eating nutritious food and only taking antibiotics when truly necessary are other ways to ensure strong gut health.
And for those unlucky 5% to 20% among us who will come down with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we also have a chance to educate them about how probiotics can help them achieve a quicker and smoother recovery. Many don’t realize that the antibiotic kills both good and bad bacteria, thereby disrupting the natural microbial balance that our bodies need to stay healthy.
Concurrently taking a probiotic helps to counterbalance the unpleasant side effects caused by antibiotics that are mistakenly attributed to an extra wicked cold or flu that just won’t give up. And it’s not just our gut flora that we need to protect, but our vaginal flora as well; almost one in four women experience vaginal side effects when taking an antibiotic.
As health care professionals, we have the unique opportunity to help guide patients to better health. Part of that guidance is to explain that not all probiotics are created equal. Probiotics are live bacteria that when left unrefrigerated, naturally die off at a faster rate. As such, it’s in the consumer’s best interest to choose a refrigerated probiotic like Florajen, which offers a variety of formulations for every member of the family and is conveniently stored in the pharmacy refrigerator.
Outside of cold and flu season, we recommend patients incorporate probiotics into their daily routine to help maintain a happy gut throughout the year, which in turn affects their overall health. Probiotics have been shown to help the body absorb more nutrients and minerals, and even have even been shown to help with treating acne and reducing blood pressure. Not only that, probiotics are an easy healthy habit to implement.
With all the exercise and fad diets that seem to dominate our culture, taking a probiotic might seem almost too simple; however, it just might be the step that will move the needle and create a healthier chapter. There is no harm in taking probiotics, and the benefits can lead to health improvements that will make you ask, “Why didn’t I start taking a probiotic years ago?”
Dr. Allison Hill and Dr. Yvonne Bohn are OB/GYNs at Los Angeles Obstetricians & Gynecologists with more than three decades of combined practice experience.