Why Do We Need Probiotics?

The answer is that we don’t.  We shouldn’t.  A probiotic is an oral supplement that helps replenish the intestinal balance of bacteria (as opposed to an antibiotic which kills off infections elsewhere in your body as well as the good bacteria in your gut).  As a fetus, floating in the sterile environment of the amniotic sac, our gut has neither air nor bacteria.  Within minutes of a vaginal delivery, the infant aerates the gut and ingests and acquire maternal flora. 

Natural gut flora has billions and billions of different species of bacteria, very much like different species of coral on a reef.  You want variety and balance.  It does not make sense to me why we should take antiobiotics that kill off our naturally occuring flora, and then take billions of the same species in a pill form.  Alright people.  The next time to go to Whole Paycheck and shell out good money please read the label..most of the time there is only one species of Lactobacillus.  Hello!  Guess what?  You’ve been had.  Lactobacillus is so common, mostly in…yougurt.  They have done a Martha Stewart on you.  Repackaged, renamed and sold for a hoity-toity price.  “So, Dr. Hoang,” you say, “is there an even more natural way to balance your gut after antiobiotics or a stomach flu?”  Yes, of course.  There is always a cheaper, more natural, more traditional way of doing things… 

Whenever I come across Asian patients, kids, who were chronically sick most of the time, they had become “Americanized” and easily adapted to the western diet.  I would prohibit dairy, which is very western.  I would admonish parents to return  “to the foods of the your people.’  Grandparents really love me whenever I say stuff like this.  Most Asian cultures primarily drink water.  We do not consume a good portion of our daily protein and calories in a drink form.  All Asian cultures and most other cultures have some sort of pickled vegetable.  The vietnamese, we have pickled radishes, eggplant, soy sauce, fish sauce, lots of pickled and fermented shrimp paste, etc.  These foods are foul to and offends the Western nostrils, but I love them.  I think the traditionally high rates of vaginal deliveries and our fermented foods keeps vietnamese children healthy.  We should not need the rotavirus vaccine.   If you can’t find a vietnamese store, the next time you need to replenish your gut, don’t even bother with yougurt (too simple!).  Try something more complex.  I love the varieties of Korean kimchi, or pickled cabbage.

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