Hospitals with their life, death, and strange smell zeitgeist have been the setting for several major revelations in my life (not the least of which is that nutritionists consider Malt-o-Meal a “solid food” but Jell-O is a “liquid”) and this time it was no different. My 3rd son, just nine months old at the time, hung limply in my arms as nurses and doctors buzzed around us. There was no waiting for us in the the waiting room when I brought my baby in, nearly unconscious with a fever of 107. The triage nurse took one look at my son and half the night staff descended on us. Weirdly all I could think about was the beginning of that Nicholas Cage/Meg Ryan flick City of Angels where the least sexy angel ever, Seth (Cage), escorts a little girl in yellow footie pajamas to heaven after she dies of a fever. The opening sequence ends with the anguished wail of her mother. To this day I hate that movie.
Over the five days my son was in the hospital, it was established that he had an infection but no one knew what it was or how he had contracted it. We went through antibiotic after antibiotic until at last we were down to the nuclear option: an IV drip of the most potent antibiotic available. If this didn’t work, the doctors told us, there wasn’t anything else we could do except try to support his body as it fought off the infection itself. Thankfully it did work, drip by drip, as I held him to my chest and rocked back and forth – the only position he would sleep in – and simultaneously prayed and watched Home and Garden Television on mute (not as mutually exclusive as one might think – you see a lot of God’s humor in Real Estate Wars). My baby recovered and I thanked God again for not putting me on earth in any century prior to this one. (Seriously, have you ever counted how many people you know would be dead without modern medicine? Half my girlfriends would have died in childbirth.) I learned two life-changing things from this experience:
1. I had serious issues with exercise addiction. Those of you that read my book (yay! thank you!) have already heard part of this story but during this time in the hospital my husband came to relieve me for a few hours. For three days I hadn’t slept other than cat naps with my son in the rocking chair, hadn’t eaten anything except the free applesauce cups and juice boxes in the pediatric common room much less showered or took my contacts out (yeah, OUCH). So what did I do with those precious few hours? I went to the gym. I didn’t run home to see my other two kids who hadn’t seen mommy in three days – a fact that breaks my heart every time I think about it. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t shower (which, ostensibly, I could have done at the gym.) I didn’t even change out of the street clothes that were rank with my panicked sweat and my baby’s sick sweat. At the time I knew it was nuts. But I did a two-hour workout anyhow before racing home to change, kiss my other kids and get back to the hospital. Not my proudest moment.
2. I discovered probiotics. This revelation may not seem as important as the first one – it’s certainly not as dramatic! – but it has been life-saving in its own right. When we took the baby home, we had to keep him on the nuclear antibiotic for a month to make sure the infection was really gone. Any of you that have taken antibiotics for an extended period of time will know what havoc it wreaks on your system. The baby immediately started with severe diarrhea that almost put him back in the hospital because the antibiotics had wiped out all the good bacteria in his little gut. The doctor gave us some packets of probiotics – good bacteria – in powder form that we sprinkled in his food to replenish his colon. Within a day the diarrhea was gone.
Ever since that experience I have kept a supply of probiotics on hand and give it to all my kids whenever they have a tummy ailment. Jelly Bean got her first dose from my breast milk – all mom juice comes loaded with probiotics! – but has had the powder sprinkled in her food since she was just a few months old and has never had a bad bout of diarrhea. While I go back and forth about different vitamins and supplements – I haven’t taken a multi since that research came out showing that people who did lived 15 years less than people who didn’t – probiotics are the one supplement that I love whole-heartedly. (Let me insert here that I am no doctor nor any kind of medical professional and everything in this post should be taken as just my experience and not as medical advice.)
What Are Probiotics and Prebiotics?
Briefly, probiotics are “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” The most common types are “Lactobacillus orBifidobacterium. Within each group, there are different species (for example,Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus), and within each species, different strains (or varieties). A few common probiotics, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, are yeasts, which are different from bacteria.”
Prebiotics are undigestible food parts that encourage the growth of probiotics.
Where Can You Find Them?
Probiotics have been used since ancient times as they are the active agents in fermented foods and cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha etc. While food sources can be a great way to get your probiotics, sometimes you need more or at least a more consistent strain and that’s where the pill form comes in. I recently was sent (for free, FTC!) a sample of ReNew Life’s Ultimate Flora. While I have been buying – and having good results with – the generic acidophilus at Target, I was impressed by the broader spectrum of probiotics included in the Ultimate Flora. I’ve been using them on myself and the kids for the past month and they have got us through one round of stomach flu!
Probiotics are not just good for tummy troubles. Research has shown that these good germs help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, h Pylori infections (the bacteria that causes some types of ulcers), tooth decay and gum health, vaginal and urinary tract infections, and some respiratory and skin infections. There was even a study that showed that post-partum women who took a probiotic supplement had lost more weight at 6 months than those who didn’t.
The most common side effects from probiotics and prebiotics are gas and bloating. But as there hasn’t been enough research to say whether or not they’re harmless, you should always talk to your doctor about taking them and if you have any strange reactions then quit taking them immediately.
ReNew Life is offering one of you a $50 giftcard to try out anything in their digestive health line. Not only do they have probiotics and prebiotics but they’ve got a great selection of oils, fiber, immune system supports and other supplements. To enter to win:
1. Leave me a comment telling me your worst stomach story or which supplement you swear by.
2. For a second entry, like ReNew Life’s founder Brenda Watson on Facebook and leave me a separate comment telling me you did so.