As a registered dietitian with degrees in nutrition science and much experience managing gastrointestinal diseases, I was frustrated.
You see, upon discharge from the hospital after a bout with pneumonia 15 years ago, my father had brought home a little souvenir named Clostridium difficile, better known as C. diff, a bacteria that was causing him intractable diarrhea and weight loss. Each week, antibiotics were either ramped up or changed. Each week, the scale showed a lower number. Within a few months, this once vibrant man (former Navy pilot and father of eight) had lost over 50 pounds and there was no good end in sight.
Antibiotics were powerless, and probably harmful.
My eureka moment
The usual dietitian’s arsenal of protein shakes and supplements had no chance with this C. diff bacteria, an invader which deposits impenetrable spores and infects 20 to 40% of hospitalized patients in the United States. So I hit the books. Eureka! The cure was killing him, as happens in medicine more often than we know. Antibiotics (against life) were killing the very microbes that could fight this foe called C.diff. He needed the very opposite: a probiotic or pro-life microbe.
One in particular, Saccharomyces boulardii, had been used for 50 years in Europe to treat this very problem. Maybe this could help, I thought. If only I could find some in the United States. The year was 2004 and probiotics were about as available as iPhones were back then. Drugstores, no. Health food stores, no. But then success–online, of course.
Short story, even shorter?
Saccharomyces boulardii worked.
Either that or it was a very fortunate coincidence. The weight crept back up, color returned to cheeks and my father returned to his hearty self, driving and grocery shopping into his 90s.
I was hooked.
Here was a stunning branch of microbiology that takes a back seat to vitamins and fats and other lab darlings. I devoured the literature–both popular and scholarly–looking for holes in the probiotic promise. The more I read though, I realized probiotics were the real deal, ready to change the face of modern health if given a chance. The Probiotics Revolution , a bible of information for any serious seeker of the word, detailed how probiotics, through immune and anti-inflammatory mechanisms, figure in asthma, allergies, bowel diseases, cancers, obesity, heart disease and many other chronic illnesses. And the best part about it was this: these probiotics are supposed to be in our bodies–lifestyle, poor diet and medicine have driven them off; any additional food or supplement on our part is merely bringing them back home.
This website is a paean to the power of probiotics.
These microscopic organisms may be hard to understand at times, may not be entirely predictable and could even set us back a few dollars, but they belong with us.
And we sorely need them.
I am Clare Fleishman RDN, MS, a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and hold a masters degree in nutrition science. I aim to bridge the gap between science and health across most platforms: major newspapers, magazines, books (Globesity), workshops, social media and websites. From corporate whiteboards to refugee schools in Egypt, I try to agitate for personal and public change.
In 2010, I launched www.ProbioticsNow.com to share the cascade of new discovery in the microbiome. Always amazed at this “forgotten organ,” I also create white papers, blogs, videos and social media for the International Probiotics Association as well as continuing education platforms.