How Probiotics Work

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Probiotics are live, single cell, microscopic bacteria that are beneficial for the body. The word “probiotic” is from the Latin “for life.” While they are most commonly associated with gastrointestinal health, research and practice has demonstrated the potential for probiotics in the field of immunology and study of allergies.

With our hand sanitizers in tow, it seems we are always on the hunt to kill bacteria that might cause us to become ill. It might overwhelm you to know that the number of bacterial microbes in the human body is in the quadrillions (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 bacterial cells!) divided into 1,000 bacterial species found primarily in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. In the 25-35 feet of the gastrointestinal tract alone, there are 400 species of bacterium. Some of these are beneficial to human health while others cause harm. One of the most important jobs probiotics perform is to create a barrier against harmful bacterium and viruses. Others help to defend the body by overpowering invading organisms.

An overview of positive functions that probiotics contribute include: breaking down food for digestion; providing the lactase enzyme in order to help digest milk sugars; contributing vitamins in the intestinal tract; helping the gastrointestinal tract maintain an optimal pH that is not too acidic that would damage tissues and organs; alleviate lactose intolerance; decrease and prevent diarrhea; increase the body’s immune system; decrease inflammation not only in the gastrointestinal tract but throughout the body; prevent allergic reactions; and decrease chronic constipation.

Specific situations will upset the body’s equilibrium of healthy bacterium. One is the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics do kill illness-causing bacteria that make us sick; unfortunately, they also destroy all other life around it, specifically the probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. One especially predatory bacterial illness, often found in nursing homes and hospitals, is Clostridium difficil, or C. difficil.  Patients who are on long-term antibiotics are vulnerable to C. difficile because it attacks individuals whose protective gastrointestinal bacteria has been wiped out. Part of the treatment involves introducing probiotics back into the system. Taking helpful oral probiotics can help the beneficial bacteria overpower the harmful bacteria more effectively than prescription yeast infection medications.

The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, which present problems for thousands of individuals for whom doctors cannot offer any specific treatment, can be alleviated significantly by certain probiotics. Patients have found a decrease in intestinal pain as well as stomach pain and overall discomfort.
Current medical research into the value of using probiotics is making progress in certain hard to treat illnesses like Ulcerative Colitis and Eczema. In treating any specific illness, you must use the specific fresh, live probiotic for that illness. Taking probiotic supplements and eating probiotic rich foods like yogurt with live cultures is good for you, but it won’t cure a specific complaint.

Here's to your wellness,


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