The Good Bacteria – Probiotics
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our gut. We have over a trillion bacteria in our colon and most of them are beneficial. Problems start arising when the ratio of good to bad bacteria gets out of balance. If that balance gets out of hand, you might consider taking probiotics. Do you obtain probiotics through your food or from a pill?
The United States has been slower than other countries in recognizing the importance of probiotics. The Northern Europeans and the Japanese acknowledge their importance. However, some GI specialists in the US are starting to treat gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, with probiotics.
What can probiotics do for us?
- Digestive Health: treatment of IBS, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and possibly Crohn’s Disease
- Urinary Health: Studies have shown that probiotics can help prevent the unhealthy bacteria from getting into the bladder, thus preventing a bladder infection.
- Women’s Health: Probiotics have been shown to prevent vaginosis and yeast infections.
- Immunity: One of the functions of helpful bacteria is to stimulate the immune response.
- Obesity: Obese people have different gut bacteria than those with a healthy weight. Probiotics could help surgical weight loss patients maintain their weight loss.
PRObiotics dump new bacteria into the colon. PREbiotics are food ingredients that stimulate growth of good bacteria in the colon. They are found naturally in oats, some honey, and bananas. Dr. Challa, author of Probiotics for Dummies, recommends the following foods: plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, kimchi, and kambucha tea.
There’s no evidence that taking probiotics in pill form will cause harm. Flatulence and abdominal discomfort are the only reported side effects. However, measuring the effectiveness is tricky. Probiotics, in pill form, must be packaged in something strong enough to survive stomach acidity. Then, scientists aren’t quite sure how many make it through the GI tract. And, since the effects of probiotics are temporary, you must keep consuming them.
Research on Probiotics is on-going and will continue providing us with more definitive answers. Scientists say probiotics PROBABLY will help you, with the possibility of minor side effects. Instead of buying in pill form, it may be more advantageous to consider measures with proven benefits, such as diet and exercise.