Have you had your probiotics today? You may have and do not even know it. Probiotics are the small "good" bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms in the intestines. Probiotics has been consumed in Europe for hundreds of years but are just now catching on in the United States as a dietary supplement. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, contained in yogurt, is probably the best known. Why do I need Probiotics?
The most common use for probiotics is for the prevention of diarrhea caused by antibiotics. Antibiotics tend to kill all bacteria, even the good kind. Killing the "good" bacteria can sometimes allow the harmful bacteria to multiply which leads to diarrhea.
In addition to diarrhea prevention, studies indicate that probiotics may also help with the following conditions:
Probiotics may assist in alleviating atopic eczema. The exact cause of eczema is not known but there are various theories, some linking it to an allergic reaction to milk and other foods.
Respiratory infections –
Studies indicate that children who drank milk with Lactobacillus GG (GG is a particular strain of probiotics discovered by Dr. Sherwood Gorbach and Barry Goldin) had fewer absences from school due to respiratory infections.
Urinary infections –
Some studies suggest that yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus may boost immune cells that help to protect the urinary tract and help reduce vaginal infections.
Prebiotics may help prevent cancerous changes in the large intestine. Preventing these changes might help protect the body against colon cancer. How do I get Probiotics?
You can get probiotics through food such as yogurt or supplements. Many yogurts contain the live cultures but check the label to make sure it says "live" or "active". The closer the yogurt is to the expiration date, the less of the live culture will remain active.
If you choose to get your probiotics through supplements, you have the option of capsules, powders and liquids. All are available at most health food stores. Check the label for the number of live cells. They should have no less than one billion live cells per dosage. You may also want to check on the strain of bacteria. Studies show that some strains may work better than other strains. Some of the bacteria with positive results include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus johnsonii, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum. Be Selective When Buying
Be aware that probiotics are classified as dietary supplements, which means they are not regulated by the government. You cannot always be sure of exactly what you are getting. I ran across one independent study that found 8 out of 25 probiotic supplements contained less than the minimum one billion live cells claimed on the label. Stick with brands you trust or ask your health store clerk for a recommended brand.
By Michael Brooks
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