Bacteria usually gets a bad rap for causing disease, yet swallowing a few billion a day in the name of health might cause most people to pause. However scientific evidence, that continues to grow, suggests that one can treat and possibly prevent many illnesses with foods and supplements that contain certain types of live bacteria called probiotics. Since the mid-1990s, clinical studies have established that probiotic therapy can aid in the treatment of some gastrointestinal concerns, delay development of allergies in children as well as treat, help with mood and depression and prevent women’s vaginal and urinary infections. Probiotics are also being used successfully with certain skin issues.
In short, having an effective amount of friendly and beneficial bacteria throughout your gastrointestinal tract for the most part determines how efficiently your immune system can respond to invading pathogens, prevent infections from developing and help control inflammation.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics which are also called ‘good bacteria’ are “organisms and substances that have a beneficial effect on the host animal by contributing to its intestinal microbial balance”, according to a report written by Parker, R. B. in the journal Animal Nutrition and Health. In addition, probiotic bacteria may have the potential to change brain neurochemistry and treat anxiety and depression-related disorders, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
It is estimated that 100 trillion microorganisms which represent more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel. This enormous internal ecosystem consists of thousands of billions of living microorganisms that co-exist. Our “human intestinal flora,” radically influences, and to a certain degree even directs, every individual’s personal state of health and well being — including physical and mental health, and metabolism. These microflora or beneficial bacteria don’t usually make us sick and, in fact, can keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute highly to immune function.
Probiotic therapy may also prove helpful with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Even though the clinical trial results are mixed, several smaller studies suggest that certain probiotics can help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease and the recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery to treat ulcerative colitis). Because these disorders are so frustrating and difficult to treat, many patient’s are trying probiotics. Of course, more research is needed to find out which strains work best for what conditions. Diarrhea is another illness in which controlled trials have shown that Lactobacillus GG can shorten the course in infants and children and can reduce diarrhea brought on by antibiotic use by 60%.
It is also interesting to note that probiotics can be of use in maintaining urogenital health. The vagina is a finely balanced ecosystem – somewhat like the digestive tract. Dominant Lactobacilli strains normally make it too acidic for harmful microorganisms to survive. However, as most women know, the system can be thrown out of balance by using antibiotics, spermicides, and birth control pills. Thus the use of probiotics that restore microflora balance may be helpful for these common female urogenital concerns such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and urinary tract infection.
Probiotics for Healthy Skin
Did you know there are more bacteria in us and on us than our own human cells? When you have unhealthy gut flora and there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria, many issues can develop such as chronic inflammation. Skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and acne are really inflammatory conditions, and often an expression of a health concern occurring deeper within the body. When you fix your gut (which, depending on your health, might include getting rid of an infection like Candida, eating a clean diet, and taking a probiotic), skin concerns will often resolve themselves. Your body has several ways to get rid of wastes and bad bacteria such as through the lower digestive tract, the urinary tract, breath, and the skin. Probiotics help to process many toxins that make their way into your digestive tract and help your body get rid of the ones already there. This helps your body to remove toxins through the lower GI tract than relying on your skin for removal, as in the form of acne.
Probiotics for Colds & Flu
An 18 month study examining the effect of the probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium on children aged 3 to 5 indicated fewer symptoms, faster recovery time and less antibiotic use.
What the study found:
- the Lactobacillus acidophilus group had 53% fewer fevers, 41% fewer coughs, and 28% fewer runny noses than the placebo group
- the group given both bacteria strains had 72% fewer fevers, 62% fewer coughs, and 59% fewer runny noses than the placebo group
- the Lactobacillus acidophilus group recovered from cold symptoms 32% faster and the two-bacteria group recovered 48% faster than the placebo group, when they did get sick, with less antibiotic use (68% and 84% less, respectively)
“Probiotics are secret weapon for fighting symptoms of the common cold in college students, study suggests” article at Science Daily quotes a study which tested a specific probiotic blend, and found “that while all students caught colds at roughly the same rate, the students who took the probiotic supplementation experienced:
- A duration of colds that was two days shorter (four days vs. six days).
- Symptoms that were 34% less severe.
- A higher quality of life that resulted in fewer missed school days (15 vs. 34 missed by students taking the placebo).”
What makes probiotics so effective in treating symptoms of upper-respiratory infections? “Cold symptoms like a stuffy nose and sore throat are the body’s inflammatory response toward a virus, not a direct action of the virus itself,” explains Registered Dietitian Tracey J. Smith. “Probiotic microorganisms may soften your immune system’s reaction by reducing your body’s inflammatory response.”
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Below are some of the many health benefits of probiotic use.
- anti-inflammatory properties
- protection from free radicals
- improves glucose tolerance
- prevents allergies
- reduces cholesterol
- benefits & supports liver
- improves mood
- relieves stress
- relieves anxiety
- relieves depression
- regulates bowel activity
- improves immune system
- improves digestion
- improves nutrient absorption
- fights yeast & fungal infections
- prevents constipation
- alleviates bloating
- improves antibiotic tolerance
- helps with hormone balance
- assists in detoxification
- enhances calcium metabolism
- improves lactose digestion
- fights bad bacteria
- increases energy
Probiotic Fruit Smoothie
2 ½ cups frozen organic fruit
1 medium organic banana frozen
1 – 1 ½ cups coconut milk or purified water
1 tablespoon (or less) raw honey
2 Floratrex capsules, empty probiotic, discard capsule
Add frozen fruit, banana (broken into pieces), milk, honey, and empty probiotic powder into blender. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Probiotics and Your Health
Probiotics can be added to your body in couple of ways: by consuming healthy foods like yogurt, natto, sauerkraut, and by taking a quality probiotic supplement. I highly recommend and personally use the high-quality probiotic Floratrex™ which contains 23 probiotic strains as well as prebiotics to support healthy gut flora. Certainly probiotics aren’t the only way to keep your digestive tract healthy. You can also try enzymes and periodic colon and liver cleansing.
Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide – http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0905c.shtml.
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