The word “probiotic” is a compound of two Greek words: “pro,” to signify promotion of and “biotic,” which means life. Their very definition is something that affirms life and health. That’s true even by modern standards. The World Health Organization defines a probiotic as any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested. It is used to describe the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the human intestinal tract. The specific micro-organisms are usually lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Similarly, the USDA defines a probiotic as “any viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host.” For most people, the mention of probiotics conjures up images of yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. Researchers found that probiotics were particularly useful against a common gastrointestinal problem: antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). However the latest probiotic research suggests that live-active cultures of these friendly bacteria can help to prevent and treat a wide variety of ailments and with a great deal more… warding off infection and boosting immune systems, as well as helping to improve women’s health and perhaps even fighting obesity.
Probiotics can help in the prevention and treatment of:
- antibiotic-induced diarrhea
- traveller’s diarrhea
- urinary tract infection
- vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis
- food allergies
- irritable bowel syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease
- lactose intolerance
One of the main functions of healthful bacteria is to stimulate immune response. By eating probiotic-rich foods and maintaining good intestinal flora, a person can also help to maintain a healthy immune system. A healthy digestive tract is linked directly to a stronger immune system due to the increased production of one immune system responder, known as lymphocytes. Probiotics are important for children as they boost immune function and prevent gastrointestinal infection.
Probiotics make a nice compliment to antibiotics among people who suffer from urinary tract infections. Infections of the urinary tract are extremely common, especially in women. Most infections disappear with antibiotics, but about 30 to 40 percent might return. There’s emerging evidence that regular probiotics can help prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract by maintaining a population of healthy bacteria on the tract’s adherence sites.
When we take anti-biotics to help us get over a viral infection, we sometimes kill many of the forms of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract. This is because the drugs don’t necessarily differentiate between healthy absorbing bacteria and illness-causing bacteria. When this happens, you may experience indigestion and diarrhea following a round of antibiotics. Many doctors will recommend a probiotic supplement to help replenish healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
The quality of probiotic supplements depends on the characteristics of the strains contained in the supplement and adequate viability, so that sufficient numbers of bacteria are viable at the point of consumption. Viability at consumption depends on a number of factors, such as proper manufacturing and the hardiness of the strain, as well as packaging and storage of the product in the right amount of moisture and at the correct temperature.
Within each species of bacteria there is a multitude of strains. Some probiotic strains are resilient and strong, able to survive passage through the upper gastrointestinal tract and inhibit pathogenic bacteria, while others are weak and cannot survive long enough to kill pathogenic bacteria.
The intestinal flora play a major role in the health of the host, and probiotic supplements can be used to promote overall good health. However, there are numerous specific uses for probiotics based upon clinical studies. One of the most well-documented applications of probiotic supplements is in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). The normal microflora of the vagina and urethra in women is dominated by lactobacilli, where they play a significant role in acting as a barrier to UTIs.
Another important application of probiotic supplements is preventing and treating antibiotic-induced diarrhea. It is commonly believed that acidophilus supplements are not effective if taken during antibiotic therapy. Research actually supports the use of probiotics during antibiotic administration as long as the probiotic supplement and the antibiotic are taken as far apart in time as possible
The dosage of probiotic supplements is based solely on the number of live organisms present in the product. I recommend using products that list the number of live bacteria at expiration versus at time of manufacture. Successful results are most often attained by taking between five and 20 billion viable bacteria per day.
If you need a little digestive support, eating foods rich in probiotics (i.e., plain yogurt and miso) or taking probiotics in supplement form (i.e., L acidophilus) might give you the boost you need by preventing lactose tolerance and helping the body digest milk products more comfortably and efficiently.
Do you want to get the most nutritional value from the foods you eat? Taking a probiotic has been shown to optimize the synthesis of vitamins and minerals in the foods we eat. For example, probiotics are especially effective for helping the body absorb calcium and B vitamins.
Maybe you never associated probiotics with their ability to protect and guard the body from foreign invaders. However, like a knight in shining armor, probiotics are credited as the body’s guardians when it comes to safeguarding it against all sorts of infections. For example, probiotics are linked to decreasing reoccurring yeast infections and urinary tract infections, as well as with defending against acne and E. Coli contamination.
Like our digestive tracts, a woman’s vagina also requires a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria to function normally. If the balance is disrupted, oftentimes nasty infections—such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV) will occur. However, taking an oral or vaginally inserted probiotic (i.e., L. acidophilius) can help maintain healthy vaginal bacteria and prevent reoccurring infections. If you suffer from frequent yeast or BV infections, talk to your doctor about taking a probiotic.
There are certain things you should consider when looking to purchase for a good probiotic suppliment. Look for reputable brands. Make sure the brand you buy has a high number for probiotics, from 15 billion to 100 billion. Look a brobiotic that has at least 10 to 20 different strains. Of course more the better. Make sure that the probiotic contains certains strains such as bactillus coagulens, saccuharomyces boulardii, bactillus subtilus, lacobacillus rahmnosus, and other cultures and formulas that ensure the probiotics make it to the gut so they can colonize. Finally, make sure the probiotic is the right one for your specific needs.
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