Did you know that there are at least 10 times more bacteria in you and on you than cells in your body? I shudder at the thought that there are several hundred species of bacteria, and their total numbers are estimated at 10-fold the number of cells that make up our body.
While the adult body harbors 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells, Americans have come to believe that nearly all bacteria are bad. But probiotics, also known as lactic acid bacteria (LAB), or friendly bacteria, are essential for optimal health and here is why; Probiotics help support the immune system by stimulating the body’s natural defenses and by lining the intestines with a protective layer of friendly bacteria that bars harmful substances in the gut from entering the body. In short, probiotics come in the form of either a food substance or supplement form. In this article we will discuss good bacteria and its benefits to the body, who may need to supplement probiotics in their diet and where to find the best source.
The rationale for probiotics is that the body contains a miniature ecology of microbes, both good and bad, collectively known as the gut flora. Your body’s miniature ecology of microbes can get thrown out of whack due to stress, alcohol use, poor diet, disease, and the use of prescription drugs, such as antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Even a baby can have his system out of balance from day one if he did not receive his first dose of good bacteria from his mother in the birth canal during the birthing process. Which means all babies born by C-Section have a compromised immune system. Is there anyone these days that doesn’t fit that criteria in one way or another? Hence most, if not all of us could greatly benefit from taking a quality probiotic on a regular basis.
If humans fail to maintain a sufficient number of good bacteria in the body, disease and perhaps even death will occur. The ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria is believed to be 85% good to 15% bad. Since the 19th century, when medical scientists first identified various links between indigestion and chronic illness, it has been recognized that what occurs inside the intestines has far-reaching effects in what happens in the body overall. Research has determined that 70% of your immune system resides in your intestinal tract. I have heard it said that death begins in the colon. I am beginning to see how that might be so.
Probiotic bacteria reside in the digestive tract and can provide several health benefits, ranging from lowering cholesterol and boosting immunity, to reducing the effects of lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and even gum disease. Additional studies suggest probiotics may help decrease the risk of colon cancer and the more serious inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. They even help assist in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. With that in mind, I would concur that it should behoove all of us to pay close attention to what happens through out our entire GI tract, especially the colon and the importance of keeping it in balance for optimal overall health and for disease prevention. Suffice it to say, probiotics are beneficial agents that can exert favorable effects on health.
Studies in germ-free mice have proven that without these bacteria, the systemic immune system will not function normally. Medical studies show that replenishing the gut with probiotics not only provide a natural way toward a healthy lifestyle, but may also help the body cure itself of some “incurable” diseases. The University of Michigan did a study with 40 patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In this double blind study, 20 were given probiotics and 20 were given a placebo. Their results were clear; Probiotics were more effective than the placebo in treating symptoms of IBS. 20 out of 20 received relief from their pain and discomfort. There are also a large number of clinical studies highlighting that probiotics are totally safe for human consumption, even for babies.
Probiotics are important in re-colonizing the intestine with good bacteria. With poor lifestyle choices, food processing, pollution and antibiotic therapy, the numbers of good bacteria living naturally in our gut are reduced, and research has shown that active consumption of bacteria increases the size of intestinal colonies, thereby improving digestion of food.
Surprisingly, despite this impressive list of therapeutic attributes, probiotics are not commonly part of the traditional medical practitioner’s arsenal of prescription drugs. Why has the medical profession, and much of the scientific community, remained aloof from the results of probiotic research? Perhaps it is because “natural” alternatives aren’t as good for business as prescription drugs are. Unfortunately we live in a society of when money talks people listen. Just my theory however.
Natural probiotics have been around for centuries in the form of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and yogurt. However, they seem to be the latest health food trend; eating ‘good’ bacteria leads to better digestive health, say experts. I am sure you have seen the ads on TV now with Dannon Yogurt touting the benefits of probiotics in their products. Unfortunately the negative effects of the sugar in the yogurt would probably negate the positive effects of the probiotics in their product. There is a better way to consume the beneficial bacteria our bodies need and it comes in an easy to consume supplement form.
Probiotics are among the fastest-growing category of functional foods, according to the market research firm Mintel, which cites a 140 percent increase last year in the launch of new probiotic-fortified products. Many doctors now believe those who consume probiotics are better equipped to fight the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the body.
After researching the probiotic market myself, I recently recommended a probiotic product to my mom because she has been on strong antibiotics for a long time due to an infection in her leg. She reported to me that she is feeling better and stronger than she has in a long time. I believe it is due to the fact that her body is being replenished with the essential good bacteria as well as other necessary nutrients provided by a high quality probiotic
It is important to recognize that not all probiotics are equivalent in terms of efficacy. Not all probiotics are the same, as they can be made from a number of different strains and strengths. So what makes a high quality probiotic effective? First, it should contain several strains of Lactic Acid Bacteria, not just one or two.