People live in fear of bacteria, like MRSA, the deadly superbug.
Daniel Orange, a student, said, "It could happen to me, it could happen to my little sister, it could happen to any of us. I don't want to see it happen to anyone else."
Yet women are told to ingest other bugs to deal with yeast infections after taking antibiotics:
"Their ob-gyn's or their family doctor will say -- 'Look, go get a tub of yogurt and eat the tub of yogurt' -- without any real explanation. What the doctor knew was there's lactobacillus acidophilus, hopefully bifido or other good bacteria in that yogurt," nutrition expert Doug Kaufmann said.
The Story on 'Bifido' and 'Acidophilus'
Haven't heard of bifido? How about sweet acidophilus? Kaufmann says these are healthy bugs. For 30 years he's been informing the public about good bacteria.
And research says these probiotics can help fight opportunistic infections like MRSA, E. Coli, certain intestinal afflictions and others.
"H. pylori which is a bacterium in the stomach that can link to peptic ulcers and various other health conditions -- these are all bacterial infections that are acquired that can be treated with broad spectrum probiotics," said William Schoor, head of a probiotics company.
Schoor got into the business after good bacteria saved his dad from the ravages of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
"A number of months ago there was an article where they were telling mainstream doctors it could be better to wash their hands in gallons of yogurt daily as to use antibiotic soap," he said.
Why? Some blame antibiotic soaps for fostering superbugs and deadly infections in hospitals.
Normally we all start life with probiotics. Babies pick up healthy microbes - also called lactic acid bacteria --from their mothers:
"Children who are breast fed, they are much healthier with a stronger immune system because of the lactic acid bacteria that they get," Schoor said.
Our Germ Fixation
But our obsession with germs can cause obstacles to having enough good bacteria. Chlorine and fluoride in tapwater diminish them. Antibiotics do destroy them.
"Anyone in my humble opinion who has taken an antibiotic needs to follow up with a probiotic. This is a grey area of science right now -- doctors writing antibiotic prescriptions like they're going out of style -- without recommending the follow-up," ????
Junk food, sodas, and sugar feed the bad bacteria. Too much bad bacteria encourages fungal overgrowth in the body -- those yeast infections - leaving the good bacteria absent.
"And when the bacteria goes away, the yeast can literally poke a tiny hole in the intestine. The first thing some of these sick people see is food allergy," Kaufmann said.
That comes from bits of food that leak into the blood stream. The body starts to see these particles - ranging from milk to wheat - as an enemy instead of a nutrient.
The recent increase in childhood asthma, connected with allergies, may be one of the consequences. So adequate probiotics may not only squelch allergies, but promote better immunity and nutrition:
Trust Your Gut
Schoor said, "Your gut is your first line of defense. All the water that you drink that is utilized and absorbed takes place in the colon - all nutrients are absorbed in your small intestine. The Royal Academy of Medicine in Great Britain said that 85 percent of all degenerative disease and illness is due to an imbalance of the microecology in your GI tract."
So for the sake of our "microecology" should we all start bathing in yogurt?
"It was never put on the market to be a medicine. It was put on the market as a food. And you will find some good yogurts. I would always get plain yogurt and then add fresh berries, nuts, et cetera to the yogurt," Kaufmann said.
But to get that medicinal dose of the right bacterial varieties, supplements are required. One of several good brands is the one Schoor distributes -- Dr. Ohhira's Japanese variety. Other good brands include ones from nutrition now: Sedona labs, Natren, UAS labs, and now foods.
There are specialized probiotics for children as well. Some autistic children have even improved from good bacteria.
Schoor says find a probiotic that works for your system - especially if you've had serious health problems. But here's what you can expect:
"Usually within the first 12 to 24 hours of initially taking it you should experience something known as the Herxheimer's reaction -- or the healing crisis. And this will feel like a negative or a side effect," he said.
Those effects can include bloating, stomach distress, and diarrhea. But that's actually a positive -- an indication that the good bacteria are flushing out bad bacteria, harmful fungus, and lingering waste matter.
How Much Should We Take?
How often to take friendly bacteria? For healthy people, once in a while may be enough. For those with compromised immune systems, it may be a constant requirement.
"If they're getting the intended results they want, then it's not something that you have to take daily. You could take it frequently, once or twice a week. Or every other day depending on your body's response -- what your body is telling you," Schoor said.
What your mind may be telling you is correct: Plenty of good bacteria in the gut means more nutrients from good food are available.
So should the new medicine be good bacteria? Well, it's not so new. A century ago scientist Ilya Mechnikov found that peasants who ate sour milk with friendly bacteria lived longer than anybody in Europe.
Kaufmann said, "Having worked with so many people with so many different various forms, species of bacteria, what I've discovered is -- this is something in the future we will begin to look at like we do vitamins today."
*Original broadcast February 26, 2008.