Why Should I Take Probiotics? Part Four
The term “probiotics” refers to foods or supplements (for example, capsules, tablets and powders) that contain “friendly” bacteria that are similar to those normally found in your body. You might be surprised to know that your body contains billions of these bacteria and other microorganisms. Although you don’t need probiotics to be healthy, these supplemental microorganisms may provide some of the same health benefits that the bacteria already existing in your body do. The average intestine contains more than 500 species of beneficial, friendly bacteria. The most common are lactobacillus acidophilus (the strains of bacteria that are used to ferment milk and create products such as yogurt) and bifidobacterium.
Besides these “friendly” bacteria, there are also unfriendly bacteria. Because both types of bacteria have their functions, the balance of these bacteria is vital. Your colon should have at least 85% healthy, friendly (lactobacillus) and 15% unfriendly (coliform) bacteria. Unfortunately, the average colon contains the opposite! When the balance of friendly to unfriendly bacteria is compromised, health problems begin.
Why Would We Need Probiotics?
Our world is full of microorganisms and bacteria, so each person’s mix of bacteria varies. A number of factors can upset the balance between the levels of good and bad bacteria. The unfriendly microorganisms such as disease-causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites can upset the balance.
One of the most common reasons for needing probiotics is if you have frequent colds, or exhibit any symptoms of Candida-related problems. Candida is a type of yeast that is naturally found in our bloodstream. Problems start when there is too much or an overgrowth of this yeast called candidiasis or Candida Albicans. Candida may also be the basis of allergies, depression, and various environmental sensitivities.
People who have taken many antibiotics often lose the balance of friendly bacteria because the antibiotics kill both the friendly (good) and unfriendly (bad) bacteria. If you have taken antibiotics, you may have compromised your intestinal bacteria balance, and you will need to replace this bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement. Despite their value, antibiotics have been overused to the point that there are at least two bacteria that have developed complete resistance to antibiotics, which can present a serious problem to our health. Additionally, people often use probiotics to try to offset side effects from antibiotics such as diarrhea, cramping or gas.
Another reason for the widespread interest in probiotics stems from research shows a link between a healthy digestive tract and a strong immune system. If you alter the microorganisms in a person’s intestinal tract by introducing probiotic bacteria, you can strengthen the immune system’s defenses.
Food Sources of Friendly Bacteria
Natural food sources of probiotics include yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut and other fermented foods. People who regularly eat yogurt or other fermented foods don’t need to take a regular probiotic supplement, but people with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, IBS, colitis, chronic constipation, or ulcers might benefit from probiotic therapy.
What Hurts Friendly Bacteria?
Eating foods which contain white, refined sugar, stress, chlorinated water, and eating processed foods all can hurt the balance of bacteria. So many people eat processed foods, means there are many benefits of taking probiotics.
The Benefits of Taking Probiotics
Probiotics have been show to help in these ways:
Help your body fight against harmful bacteria, viruses and yeast.
Stimulate the function of your immune system.
Help your body produce essential vitamins.
Protect the gut mucosa.
Improve the pH of the colon.
Aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Help break up food so the small villi, which line the intestines, can absorb it.
Act as a natural antibiotic.
Help protect the lining of the intestinal tract.
Can help prevent infections
Can help synthesize vitamins B and K
Additionally, probiotics have also been used for the following:
Prevent and treat inflammation following colon surgery
Treat diarrhea, following treatment
Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
Treat irritable bowel syndrome
Shorten the duration of intestinal infection
Treat eczema and skin rashes, especially in children
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth or activity of bacteria in the digestive system. The most prevalent forms of prebiotics are nutritionally classed as soluble fiber. Natural food sources of prebiotics are: oatmeal, flax, barley, onions, greens (such as spinach, collard greens, kale, chard and mustard greens), berries, bananas and other fruits, and other whole grains and legumes (such as lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, white beans, black beans.)
What About Supplements?
If you decide to take a probiotic supplement, get a quality supplement because the living organisms are sensitive to light and temperature. If not properly stored, probiotic supplements may lose the active organisms by the time they reach their shelf life. Be sure to check the expiration date on the package and if necessary, keep them refrigerated. Avoid probiotics that contain sugar or glucose, both of which inhibit the growth of the good friendly bacteria. A great pro and prebiotic which I carry in my office is Standard Process Prosynbiotic. It’s great for anyone who has taken a lot of antibiotics, has irritable bowel disease, and even as a great daily probiotic. People who travel, take some prescription medications, need digestive support, are under stress, or who do not eat fermented foods regularly may find ProSynbiotic useful for maintaining a healthy gut.
Prosynbiotic contains several strains including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus paracasel and Bifidobacterium lactis. Here are the ways Prosynbiotic keep you healthy:
*Supports gut flora
*Maintains a healthy gut environment
*Improves nutrient digestion/absorption
*Supports the body’s natural immune response
*Contributes to absorption of calcium and magnesium
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