Checking In To The Hospital? What You Should Know.

Whether you’re undergoing surgery or just getting a stitch or two, the experience of going to the hospital is scary enough without increasing concerns about Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) making the trip downright terrifying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans come down with 1.7 million HAIs in a given year and 99,000 of those infections result in death. Believe it or not, HAIs kill more people than AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined!

One major cause of HAIs is the bacteria Clostridium difficile or C. diff. Every day, over 7,000 hospital patients in America are infected with C. diff. About 300 of them will go on to die from the bacteria. So what can you do to avoid an HAI? If you’re being admitted to the hospital any time soon, consider these few tips before you check in:

1. Wash Your Hands.

We all learned this in preschool but as adults some of us need reminding, especially when in the hospital. People touch their faces, including eyes, nose and mouth very often throughout the day even though they may not realize it. It’s incredibly important to wash your hands frequently and advise any visitors you have to do the same.

2. Watch for Symptoms.

Symptoms of C. diff infection can range from diarrhea and stomach cramps to nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to tell the nurse. Your doctor will likely administer tests to determine the cause of the symptoms. Hospital workers will likely isolate you and start wearing protective gowns and gloves to avoid spreading the infection.

3. Be Proactive. Take Probiotics.

Taking supplemental probiotics before, during and after your hospital visit can support the balance of gut flora and a healthy immune response. One probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii is especially useful for people with C. diff, particularly those that have recurrent C. diff infections, because it works quickly and is not affected by antibiotics. Other types of probiotics can help you maintain the balance of healthy bacteria and naturally crowd out the bad bacteria. Be sure to take a supplement with a variety of strains plus a high culture count to make the most impact.

Please note: C. difficile infection is a very serious, sometimes even fatal condition and should only be treated under the care of a qualified physician. Many physicians are now treating C. diff with a combination of probiotics and antibiotics, so be sure to speak to your doctor about the supplements you wish to take.

What Should You Look For In A Probiotic?

If you watched ReNew Life Founder Brenda Watson’s latest PBS television special, The Road to Perfect Health, you’ll know all about the incredible effects of probiotics on the body.  But with so many products to choose from, many wonder what factors to consider when choosing an effective probiotic supplement. Let’s cover the basics to help you make the most of these health-promoting bacteria. 

First, to determine the strength or potency of a probiotic, look at the culture count. The culture count refers to the total amount of live, friendly bacterial cultures in a single serving.  You need at least 15 billion cultures to begin to make an impact on your health—often more, depending upon your age or health-related concern.  Research is showing that more is better, so keep an eye on the number of cultures or CFUs (colony forming units) for best results. Total CFUs or culture count will often be determined at time of manufacture, but very few remain at full strength through their expiration date.  Look for a high quality probiotic that displays potency on the label at time of expiration, not manufacture.

When choosing a probiotic it’s also important to pay attention to the number of strains.  The strains, or specific types of bacteria, plus the culture count of each should be listed on the label. Over 1,000 strains of beneficial bacteria can be found in the human gut, so it makes sense to choose a probiotic supplement that reflects this natural diversity. 

When you scan the label of a good probiotic you’ll see strains that begin with Ls and Bs, like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.  A good trick to differentiate these is that the L strains are more native to the little (small) intestine and the B strains are generally found in the big (large) intestine or colon. Look for lots of Ls and Bs because each person’s body utilizes certain bacterial strains better than others. 

While probiotics are also utilized in the upper digestive tract, the majority of bacterial populations exist in the lower small and large intestines. So how do the good bacteria get all the way down there?  Probiotics must travel through the harsh stomach environment and be delivered to the intestines to colonize. Delayed-release capsules are engineered to remain intact through the stomach and begin dissolving in the intestine, where they are needed most.

A probiotic supplement, when delivered to the right place, with the right amount of cultures and strains, can help promote digestive health, bowel regularity and strengthen the body’s natural immune defenses.  Be sure to read the label, so you’ll know you’re giving your body the probiotic it needs. 

Still confused on which specific supplement to take for your individual needs? Take our interactive quiz for our recommendation.