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Probiotics: Friendly Residents In Your Digestive Tract

By HERWriter
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Healthy Eating related image Photo: Getty Images

Probiotics are alive, microscopic and hopefully thriving in your digestive tract. Fortunately for you and me, they are benign. They're even known as good bacteria.

Yes, that's right. Bacteria. But they're friendly bacteria.

It takes bacteria to fight bacteria apparently. And probiotics can kill unhealthy, disease-producing bacteria. There's a lot going on in our intestines that we don't want to know about.

More than you bargained for. But it's a valuable series of transactions.

Several hundred different types of bacteria are milling about in your large intestine, by the millions. This is a good thing, since they can reduce infections, flu symptoms and irritable bowel syndrome.

It is thought that 10 million colony forming units (CFU) per gram or per mL are needed daily to be effective.

Probiotics need to be impervious to upper GI conditions. They should be of human origin, for safety and efficacy, and adhere to the lining of the gut. They should stimulate good bacteria and suppress bad ones.

According to Edward Farnworth, who is a senior research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, probiotic bacteria releases chemicals in our digestive system that basically talk to your intestinal wall. And this conversation is causing your intestinal wall to initiate defenses against infection and disease.

Different combinations of eight strains or more of probiotics can ease inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and colitis. Probiotics can offset adverse effects of antibiotics. Probiotics can treat diarrhea, prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

Probiotics may reduce eczema in children. About 20 percent of infants and toddlers develop red itchy skin on their cheeks, foreheads and scalps, sometimes spreading to other areas of their bodies.

By age two many recover, but some will struggle with it throughout their lives.

But probiotics may make a difference. It seems that even probiotics ingested by the mothers both before and after birth, can reduce the incidence of eczema in their children by about 40 percent.

You can find live probiotic cultures in dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and kefir. You'll find them in some soy products like miso, fermented soybeans (tempeh) and soy drinks.

Food products will usually contain Lactobacillus, e.g., acidophilus, casei, fermentum and planarum, or it may contain Bifidobacterium, such as infantis or lactis.

For supplements, look for capsules, powders and tablets. While some probiotics don't need to be kept cool, most will so look for supplements that are refrigerated.


Understanding probiotics

Probiotics offer healthy benefits

How to choose the right probiotics

Probiotics: Important for a healthy diet?

Moms can reduce risk of eczema in their babies by taking probiotics

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Add a Comment2 Comments

Interesting--and kind of disgusting--article! Thanks for the information. I take a probiotic, and also give one to my son daily to ward off stomach discomfort and bowel issues. It works for us! I noticed that there are different formulations for digestive health and immunity health. What's the difference in formulation? Different bacteria? How do they know? Fascinating!!

August 25, 2010 - 9:06am
HERWriter (reply to Christine Jeffries)

Hi Christine,

Interesting and disgusting ... that about sums it up, doesn't it.

And if that's the reaction reading this gave you ... I have done well. :)

August 30, 2010 - 3:03pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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