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In 2008 a gastroenterologist in Minnesota discovered that he was able to cure one of his patients of a destructive Clostridium difficile infection by transplanting healthy bacteria from her husband’s gut into hers. Clostridium difficile, more commonly known as C. diff, is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, but within hours after the beneficial bacteria was transplanted into her colon, the woman’s C. diff infection disappeared—along with her symptoms.

No, it’s not science fiction, just an emerging field of real science that continues to amaze doctors, scientists, and just about everyone in the health care community. And at the heart of it all is something that can’t even be seen with the naked eye—the trillions of microscopic bacteria that have been living in your gut since the day you were born.

The human digestive tract is where more than 70 percent of the body’s natural immune defenses are found. That means it plays a vital role in preserving overall health, and study after study has shown that the good bacteria (called probiotics) can help prevent everything from digestive problems such as irritable bowel and constipation to inflammation-related conditions such as asthma and allergies. Not only that, but the variations between one person’s gut environment and the next can make a big difference when it comes to whether or not they are more prone to certain diseases or conditions throughout life.

While this comes as no surprise to natural health experts—who have been touting the benefits of probiotics and a balanced gut for years—their hope is that it will increase awareness about the benefits of taking a daily probiotic supplement at every age in order to promote lifelong health.

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Here’s something to think about the next time you get a hankering for enchiladas: According to a news release published this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 out of every 25 restaurant-associated outbreaks of foodborne infection from 1998 to 2008 could be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole.

CDC experts say that freshly prepared salsa and guacamole in particular typically contain ingredients like raw tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro—an herb made popular by its use in Mexican cuisine—but that improper storage temperatures or handling methods increased the risk of contamination and pathogen growth, resulting in a sharp rise in foodborne illness. While the CDC will continue to monitor foodborne disease trends, they caution restaurant owners to follow proper food safety preparation and storage guidelines.

Tomatoes and peppers are also among the top foods affected by widespread pesticide contamination in the U.S. The majority of commercially grown produce is treated with high amounts of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals, many of which remain on fruits and vegetables even after a thorough washing. For this reason, natural health experts like Detox Strategy author Brenda Watson recommend buying organically grown produce whenever possible.

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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