Slash your risk of surgery-related complications, including life-threatening infections
(NaturalHealth365) Every year, roughly 50 million people undergo inpatient surgery in the United States. According to researchers at Loyola University Health System, 300,000 of them will develop infections at the site of the surgery, while thousands more will develop surgery-related systemic infections, such as pneumonia and sepsis. (Warning: these health issues are potentially life-threatening!)
And, while Western medicine will generally use antibiotics to treat surgery-related complications, these drugs contribute to the growing public health crisis of antimicrobial resistance – and threaten the healthy balance of bacteria in the body. Fortunately, recent research is revealing the benefits of a natural, non-toxic intervention.
Alert: How infections grow out of control and threaten our health
The microbiome, made up of the trillions of bacteria that populate the body, plays an essential role in maintaining good health – and even in sustaining life itself. This community of microbes (which is located largely in the gut) helps to boost immune system function, assists in the proper absorption of nutrients – and can even influence mood and cognition.
Unfortunately, a variety of factors – including antibiotic use, poor nutrition and stress – can threaten the balance of the microbiome, reducing the number and diversity of beneficial gut bacteria and allow for pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria to grow out of control.
This unbalanced state, known as dysbiosis, can set the stage for a wide range of serious inflammatory conditions – including autoimmune diseases, food allergies, irritable bowel disease, gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver and Crohn’s disease.
As dysbiosis is also implicated in postsurgical infections, researchers have become interested in the potential of probiotic supplements to ward off complications.
Probiotic therapy to the rescue: Recent scientific review acknowledges effectiveness of supplementation
In a 2017 review published in the peer-reviewed journal Gastroenterological Research and Practice, the authors used nine different high-quality clinical trials involving a total of over 1100 patients to investigate the effects of probiotic supplementation on post-surgical complications.
“Probiotics” are live bacteria and yeasts that encourage friendly bacteria and help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome – while the term “prebiotics” refers to non-digestible fiber that provides food for beneficial microbes. (Note: “synbiotics” refers to the use of probiotics and prebiotics together).
The authors concluded that the use of multistrain probiotics (formulations which combined at least three different strains of bacteria) was associated with a 70 percent lower incidence of postsurgical infections – both at the site of the procedure and at other locations throughout the body.
Specifically, multistrain probiotic supplementation reduced incidence of pneumonia by 75 percent, urinary tract infections by 61 percent, and sepsis by 56 percent. No adverse reactions or effects were noted.
The authors stressed that probiotics help to enhance gut immune function while discouraging the growth of pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. Probiotics also improve the integrity of the gut barrier, thereby decreasing bacterial translocation – in which bacteria can move to distant organs through an impaired intestinal lining.
Interestingly, probiotic supplementation using a single strain of bacteria did not have a significant effect.
But the authors characterized multistrain probiotics as “effective in preventing total infections after colorectal surgery.”
Official consensus: Probiotics and synbiotics reduce complications, shorten hospital stays
An additional review published in December in Journal of Clinical Medicine strongly supported the protective effect of probiotics.
After assessing numerous studies involving over 3,000 patients who had undergone major abdominal surgery, the authors reported that probiotic supplementation was associated with a significant decrease in surgery-related complications.
Specifically, they noted decreases in infections at the site of the surgery – and fewer systemic infections such as pneumonia, sepsis and urinary tract infections.
In addition, supplementation was linked to a shorter duration of antibiotic therapy, shorter duration of post-operative fevers and shorter hospital stays – all good news for post-operative patients.
Interestingly, the team found that the supplemented patients had lower levels of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, along with increased levels of beneficial short-chain fatty acids, such as butyric acid.
Promote healthy gut flora with probiotic foods
To promote gut health on a daily basis, most natural health experts recommend supplementation with a high-quality, shelf-stable probiotic formulation containing at least 10 to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), and containing several different beneficial strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Before supplementing, you should talk to an experienced integrative physician – who can advise you on specific strains for your individual needs.
You can also increase your dietary intake of probiotics with fermented foods such as kimchi (pickled cabbage), non-pasteurized sauerkraut, pickles and miso soup.
Prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, asparagus, dandelion greens, chickpeas, whole oats and bananas.
Other natural pre – and post – surgical interventions include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, CoQ10 and omega-3 fatty acids.
And, don’t forget about natural stress relievers – such as meditation and guided imagery – to reduce pre-operative anxiety.
The takeaway is clear: Recent research showcases the ability of probiotic and synbiotic supplements to prevent dangerous complications of abdominal and colorectal surgery. If a surgical procedure is in your future, it may be wise to discuss supplementation with your integrative physician.
Sources for this article include: