Saturday, March 12, 2011
What About Probiotics?
Probiotics are actually live "good-guy" bacteria that are normally found in your digestive tract. These microorganisms are important for development of the immune system, digestion of foods, and absorption of nutrients. A healthy body has zillions of these friendly bacteria, and their presence helps to keep down the less friendly bacteria population. The question is: if probiotics are naturally a good thing, would consuming more be even better?
We've all heard claims that consuming probiotics strengthens the immune system, reduces IBS (irritable bowel syndrome,) treats intestinal infections, helps cure the common cold---all sorts of things. But, do they really work? So far, the research has produced encouraging results for the use of probiotics to reduce diarrhea from antibiotic use and lactose intolerance, and to help treat yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Other studies have raised the possibility that probiotic use decreases bladder cancer recurrence, aids in treatment of intestinal infections, reduces the symptoms of IBS, prevents and treats eczema in children, and perhaps even reduce the length and severity of colds and flu. Lots of research is underway and more is needed to find out everything we can about probiotics and to determine its safety for all ages.
Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, fermented milk, miso, and tempeh. Look for foods labeled "live and active cultures" to make sure they contain functional probiotics. You may see the type of bacteria listed---most often lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Some juices, infant formulas and other foods are now fortified with probiotics. You can also purchase probiotic supplements in pill, powder, and liquid form, which provide a much, much larger concentration than you would find in foods.
As we wait for more information, eating yogurt, miso, or tempeh every day would be an easy, safe way to add probiotics in your diet. If you are thinking of taking probiotic supplements to help treat an illness or to possibly improve your health, be sure to talk to your doctor first to determine whether they are the right thing for you.
To your health!
Here's a good video for more information:
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