Friday, May 20, 2016

Probiotics R Us

I have a crystal-clear memory of being a very young child and having my mother chase me around the house, impressively balancing a teaspoon of Pepto-Bismol without spilling a drop. Desperate to get away from her and the horrid stuff, I was ultimately outsmarted when she trapped me under the dining room table and poured the pink goo down my throat. Yuk! To my five-year-old self there was nothing worse.

Flash forward six decades to last night, when, a few hours after a festive family feast of Chinese take-out, I ruefully emptied the last of our Pepto-Bismol, licking the inside of the bottle cap for a few extra drops and desperate again, but this time for more of the soothing elixir. Settling for a few Tums, and stale ones at that, I took my upset stomach to bed and prayed for sleep to come quickly.

When it comes to upset stomachs, I am certainly not alone. As many of you have likely noticed, eating is big and getting bigger every day. It's become something of hobby for many people and a veritable religion for others, whose followers pray at their local Whole Foods each weekend. Cooking classes, gourmet foods, trendy bistros, tasting menus and celebrity chefs dominate our culture. "Where should we eat?" is doubtless the most uttered phrase in the English language, certainly on a Saturday night when restaurants are packed tight and waiting an hour or more for a table in a popular dining spot is considered no big deal, and that's with a reservation.

Coincidentally, another hobby increasing in popularity is sitting on the toilet, thanks to the increasing incidence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spastic colon, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. The number of people with Crohn's disease is growing as well. You see more and more commercials on TV for these popular illnesses, or rather, for the endless supply of drugs to fix them. Once a rarity, probiotics -- microorganisms that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed -- are now a common household staple. Funny, I get mine at Whole Foods.

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