Why Do We Need Probiotics?

By Susan J. Wojcik;

In earlier times, when fermentation was one of the main methods for the preservation of food, the intake of probiotic bacteria was high. Today the situation is different. The use of freezers, refrigerators, the pasteurisation of food like dairy products and the use of different kinds of preservatives have replaced fermentation as a method for the preservation of food. The intake of probiotic bacteria, which is important for maintaining a healthy intestinal environment and immune system, has dramatically decreased.

What are Probiotics?

The term literally means ‘for life' in Greek and it refers to live bacteria. Do you know that you are made up of more bacteria than cells inside you? To most people, bacteria could just be a dirty word, bringing in its wake dirt and disease. However, most of the bacteria in the human system are good bacteria. They are essential to keep you alive and kicking. Out of the many hundreds of kinds of bacteria that live inside of you, many of them are in your gut. That's because the gut is where most of your immune system is located. So when there are enough of good bacteria in there, all's right with your world. You need the good bacteria to overcome the bad ones. As long as that happy balance remains inside, things are fine.

What Probiotics Do

Your body can well tolerate a small percentage of bad bacteria. The good ones keep them in check and don't allow them to get out of hand. However, when you fall ill or you have an infection and even when you have had a course of antibiotics, it could upset this balance and there aren't enough of good bacteria to protect you inside. That's when you need extra fighting power. You need to repopulate your gut with the good so they can bring your body back to a balanced state.
Things that can destroy our good guys are:

(a) antibiotic use
(b) too much alcohol
(c) eating foods impregnated with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic residues, and      hormonal pollutants
(d) the over consumption of sugars and other refined carbohydrates
(e) the distress of too much stress
(f) the lack of nutrition from living fresh foods grown in nutrient-rich soil
(g) chlorinated water

Where Do You Get Probiotics?

There are various kinds of probiotics – they could be bacterial or of an yeast origin. In the bacterial group, there are different strains you will find within the two groups - Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Today, you get them in a whole range of products. It could be yogurt, yogurt drinks, cottage cheese, or even in a concentrated probiotic supplement. However, what is vital is that the bacteria count in the product you eat or drink be of the necessary amount. There's no way this is visible so the best thing to do would be to make sure that you buy products from a well-known manufacturer. Probiotic products need to be stored well – the packaging will give you the instructions.

Is Regular Yogurt Enough?

Regular yogurt does not contain any strains of probiotics. Many people tend to equate probiotics with yogurt but this is a misconception. While yogurt can contain probiotic strains, all yogurts are not probiotic in nature as they could be made from various strains. This is why you need to read that label to ensure that you are getting probiotics in the product you are buying. There are some new probiotic yogurt products out there...but beware, they are not all created equal. It is still important to read your labels and stear away from too many added sugars, artificial flavorings/colors and CORN SYRUP! For this reason Activia is not a personal favorite of mine.

Who Should Take Probiotics?

We could all stand to get extra probiotics in our diet, but it becomes especially important if you have just completed a course of antibiotics. This is because the drugs don't just kill off the bad bacteria, they also do away with the good so all you need to do is to put back the flora that your intestine needs. So probiotics goes great with medication.

Probiotics have also been found very useful in any kind of parasitic or bacterial infection like candida, vaginal and urinary infections, giardiasis, and even conditions like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. For small children, it brings about a lot of relief in allergies of the skin as well as digestive problems that are caused due to food allergies. All kinds of digestive abnormalities including IBS, indigestion, diarrhea and constipation benefit from probiotics. Also, probiotics can give nice support to the immune system, especially if you find yourself getting ill frequently. Finally, those suffering from lactose intolerance can find relief with probiotics.

Probiotics and Weight Loss

The latest news when it comes to weight loss is that probiotics is a great way to lose weight. A Stanford study seems to indicate that weight gain could be the result of a bacterial infection. When probiotics or the good bacteria populate the digestive system, the bad bacteria starts moving out.

Your question: Do you take probiotics regularly? (post your comments below)

About the Author: Susan J. Wojcik is a Naturopathic physician and board certified acupuncturist in private practice at Lakeshore Wellness Center in Chicago, Illinois. She has been practicing Naturopathic and Integrative medicine at Foothills Neurology in Phoenix, Arizona since 2002 and has only recently settled down in Chicago to begin her own private practice. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture. She is also affiliated with such organizations as the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians (ILANP), the Naturopathic Academy of Therapeutic Injections (NATI), the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and the Homéopathe International (HI). The modalities employed in her Naturopathic practice include: clinical nutrition, homeopathy, functional medicine, botanical medicine and traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.


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