Understanding Probiotics

[pullquote_left]What are the benefits of taking probiotics? – by Dr.Roni DeLuz PHD, RN, ND[/pullquote_left]

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or yeasts in the form of a dietary supplement that restore good bacteria in the colon. Taking probiotics can replenish the natural gut flora that thrives in the digestive system. Doctors and nutritionists often recommend these, particularly after someone has had a course of antibiotics. Many health professionals believe that probiotics help to increase the strength of the immune system and help combat allergies as well as assist in regulating the gut flora.

What are Probiotics?

Acidophilus is a common probiotic often found in yogurts and other dairy foods. As people get older, eat meat, travel, and use prescription drugs, the good gut flora in the digestive tract begins to decline. Much of this flora typically helps the immune system and fights off disease, but as their numbers decline this protection declines as well.

In addition to helping the body stay disease free, gut flora also helps to digest nutrients, vitamins and enzymes, especially the lactose in milk and dairy products. Probiotics help to supplement those floras and replace those that have died off. Daily intake of foods that contain probiotics helps with a number of digestive issues, such as constipation. They can also help to increase the amount of nutrients we absorb, reduce blood cholesterol and even help to protect against tumors and colon cancer. Other health benefits of probiotics include:

  • Preventing gas
  • Preventing bloating
  • Preventing bad breath
  • Replenishing ?good? bacteria after use of antibiotics
  • Enhancing the function of the immune system
  • Helping digest food
  • Preventing constipation

Types of Probiotics

There are several different strains of probiotic supplements. The most common strains of probiotics include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

The lactobacillus strain is helpful to the small intestine, while the bifidobacteria strains are helpful to the large intestine, as they generally reside in these areas.

Interestingly, vegetarians tend to have a healthy balance of ?good? and ?bad? bacteria, while people who eat meat tend to have larger amounts of ?bad? bacteria, particularly bacteroids. Probiotics not only have a positive effect on the colon, but also in other systems of the body; including skin, respiratory, and genital-urinary tracts.

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