After following more than a thousand South Florida beachgoers for a year, experts at the University of Miami discovered an alarming trend among people who frequently swam in the ocean. Compared to non-swimmers, those who spent time in the water experienced more gastrointestinal illness, more respiratory problems, and a significantly higher rate of skin disorders, even though beach areas were clean and the water unpolluted.
The culprit? Microscopic bacteria that thrive in the sub-tropical water temperatures. Such bacteria can enter the body through ingestion or skin contact and could potentially upset the healthy balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, which is essential for optimal digestion and immune function.
Experts warn that the harmful bacteria may pose a particular threat for children as well as older adults who may be lacking in healthy gut bacteria, and recommend taking the following precautions if planning a day at the beach:
- Avoid swallowing ocean water.
- Do not swim if you are ill, have diarrhea or open wounds.
- Shower and wash your hands before and after swimming.
- Take children on frequent bathroom breaks/diaper changes.
Research also shows that taking a daily high-potency probiotic supplement can help boost the numbers of good bacteria in the gut and help ward off potential harmful invaders. As a general rule, adults should look for supplement with at least 15 billion active cultures per once-daily serving.