The Importance of Healthy Bacteria in the Gut

I have a 62 year old friend who was recently referred to a gastroenterologist for upper chest and esophageal pain. The diagnosis was heartburn and she was given an prescription of high dose antacids. Her stress level is very high due to impending move and could be related to the pain—here is what I suggested to her instead of taking a very strong medication:

–Check to make sure that you are getting enough low fat sources of protein in your diet. Most people 60 and over need 1.0 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight—this could equal 80-100 grams per day. Good sources include fish, chicken, yogurt, milk, eggs and cottage cheese. Higher in fat and calories but still a good choice are nuts and soy products.

—Include a good probiotic containing a variety of beneficial gut bacteria as a daily supplement. A recent study showed that VSL #3, a cocktail of eight different probiotics, leads to an increase of good bacteria (lactobacilli and bifdibacteria) and a reduction in the bad gram negative bacteria in the gut. Overall VSL # 3 improves immunity and decreases risk for heart disease and diabetes. The study added 300 mg per day of fish oil which improved immunity and decreased inflammation further in the 60 patients in the study.

Take home message: As you age we wear down good bacteria in the gut and many people begin to experience non-specific GI symptoms. Be sure that you are getting enough high quality protein in your diet and include a wide spectrum probiotic, such as VSL #3, as a supplement to “spiff up” GI health!

Reference: Rajkumar H, MahmoodN, Kumar M, et al. Effect of Probiotic (VSL#3) and Omega 3on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized , controlled trial. Mediators of Inflammation volume 2014 article ID 348959; 8 pages.