Wow Dude, That’s Some Excellent S#*t…

We here at Doc Gurley know what question keeps you up at night, fretting and pondering–can you, with minimal effort, and no side effects, have a better stool? Can you, by doing so, even avoid disease? Well, boys and girls, the answer in the health news this week is a resounding no s#*t. You bet you can. An elegant study (yes, doctors do believe that the word elegant can be applied to the topic of stool) published this week looked at just this question. Hang with me for a moment while I set the stage with some physiology background and a few stool-related props. I promise we’ll go straight to the heralding trumpets of the study’s conclusions.

Here’s the poop:

1) When you take antibiotics (by vein or by mouth), the antibiotics kill all germs that are susceptible to it–good, bad, or indifferent. The antibiotic doesn’t care what it’s killing, it’s just a chemical. Left in its wake is sometimes a vacuum of no-germness, which is one of the reasons people get weird stools while taking antibiotics–all your good, normal, help-you-digest germs are decimated. We’re talking a WWI gut battleground–germs being carried off in stretchers, trenches overflowing with germ bodies, crap smeared everywhere…you get the picture.

2) Anytime there is a lack of good germs, one subset of germ can overgrow. An overgrowth can happen because a bad germ finds an empty, nutrient rich slot (your guts). Or maybe you were a silent carrier of a bad germ, and, in the absence of all the other good germs, the wicked one breaks free, like escaping from prison, and grows like crazy.

3) There is a particularly nasty kind of germ that can do just this–the medical name for this opportunistic invader is Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, or VRE. Notice the “VR” part of the name–you already get a clue that this is one nasty germ when the word “resistant” is part of its name. So how do you treat something that probably was “spawned” by taking antibiotics? Well, sometimes it’s hard to find the right treatment. I mean, once you’ve taken numerous rounds of antibiotics, you’ve got a wasteland of unprotected, nutrient-rich guts, just waiting for more nastiness to move in–right?

Well, with that physiology scene-setting, here’s the good news. Doctors tried giving VRE-afflicted patients a new form of treatment. We’re talking a treatment that meets all the Doc Gurley criteria for fabulousness–1) effective, 2) cheap, 3) no side effects, and 4) readily available. What’s more, it works! (trumpet heralds here). What was this wonder drug, you ask? Brace yourself…

yogurt.

Whee! We’re talking spoonsful of good germs. Yogurt may not be everyone’s favorite food–but I have to say, once you’ve had VRE, I’m pretty sure you’d suck down yogurt even if you were lactose intolerant. Check out the study for yourself to see how remarkably effective it was, despite the small numbers of patients. The study was done in Australia, not sponsored by the milk-council, AND double-blinded to prevent bias. We’re talking great news for the guts among us and a nice practical result you can put to use in your life right away. Unfortunately, since there is no huge profit margin at stake with yogurt, this is the kind of study that may not get the press it deserves–so tell you friends and loved ones. Pass the word! If you get some antibiotics this winter, stop by the market on the way home and pick up a tub of active yogurt. Don’t get the neon-colored plastic kind, get the good old sour white clumpy stuff, clearly labeled to contain live cultures. Have a little bowl each day (100g is what they used in the study), all through your treatment and a week after, maybe with a little no-sugar-added apple sauce to make it tastier. Mmm mm, nothing like a good stool-enhancer to start your day, now is there?

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