Food-borne diseases cause 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the CDC. In the past six years, salmonella-contaminated peanut butter caused 1,139 infections in 44 states, while more than 90 pounds of e. coli-tainted foods were recalled during a two-week period in 2013. As many as 73% of Americans reported that they are concerned that food may not be safe to eat, according to a 2010 Harris Poll.
Luckily, help is on the horizon, in the form of tiny little bugs. Yes, you read that right: bugs.
Probiotics fight salmonella and E. coli infections. Scientists don’t know exactly why they work—they just know that they do. Here’s how to get more. Those bugs are tiny little microorganisms called probiotics, which are primarily found in food and which play important roles in keeping your digestive track working properly. Researchers at UC Irvine recently found that probiotics soothed gut bacterial infections caused by salmonella. And in Europe, scientists are working on a probiotic that neutralizes the toxin produced by E. coli.
Researchers don’t know exactly why they work—they just know that they do. Some theorize that probiotics work to strengthen the intestinal lining, allowing it to act more efficiently as a barrier to destructive organisms, or that the antimicrobial substances that they secrete can destroy harmful bacteria.
So where do you get probiotics? You can make your own enhanced yogurts and kefirs with a Probiotic Yogurt Starter, look for probiotic-rich energy drinks like Enlightened Synergy Kombucha, add a probiotic powder like Amazing Grass Amazing Meal to your daily shake or search out a daily supplement like Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Ultimate Probiotics Formula. You can even get probiotic Wholistic Pet Canine supplements for your dog!
Some of these formulations can contain as many as five billion bacterial colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose. Five billion might seem like a lot, but the fact that the human body is made up of a staggering one quadrillion bacteria and the gastrointestinal tract hosts a massive 100 trillion bugs puts it in perspective.
In a system this big, we need a lot of tiny defenders, so we can start worrying about bigger things than whether or not that peanut butter sandwich is a good bet for lunch.