Probiotics are showing up in foods, beverages, and supplements. What exactly are they, do they work, and are they safe for us to be consuming?
What are probiotics?
There are very few people who have not heard about the “new” health miracles called probiotics. Probiotics are organisms such as bacteria or yeast that are believed to improve health and prevent colds or fight a cold once you already have one. Is your body able to handle this on its own or do you need to start including probiotics in your diet?
The idea of taking live bacteria or yeast may seem strange at first. After all, we take antibiotics to fight bacteria. But our bodies naturally teem with such organisms. The digestive system is home to more than 500 different types of bacteria. They help keep the intestines healthy and assist in digesting food. They are also believed to help the immune system.
Let’s start with the facts behind what probiotics are. The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting” and biotic, meaning “life.” There is some debate about how to define probiotics. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Yes, they are actually alive, and most of these microorganisms are bacteria. Most people think of antibiotics and antibacterial products when you mention bacteria. Both of those kill bacteria so why would you want to consume anything that has live bacteria in it? It’s all about balance.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Researchers believe that some digestive disorders happen when the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestines becomes disturbed. This can happen after an infection or after taking antibiotics. Intestinal problems can also arise when the lining of the intestines is damaged. Taking probiotics may help. “Probiotics can improve intestinal function and maintain the integrity of the lining of the intestines,” says Stefano Guandalini, MD, professor of pediatrics and gastroenterology at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Probiotics and the Immune System
There’s also evidence that probiotics help maintain a strong immune system. In societies with very good hygiene, we’ve seen a sharp increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases. That may be because the immune system isn’t being properly challenged by pathogenic organisms. Introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics is believed to challenge the immune system in healthy ways.
Probiotics may seem new to the food and supplement industry, but they have been with us from our first breath. During a delivery through the birth canal, a newborn picks up bacteria from his/her mother. These good bacteria are not transmitted when a Cesarean section is performed and have been shown to be the reason why some infants born by Cesarean section have allergies, less than optimal immune systems, and lower levels of gut microflora.
Cautions About Probiotics
For the most part, taking probiotics is safe and causes few side effects. “People in cultures around the world have been eating yogurt, cheeses, and other foods containing live cultures for centuries,” says Martin Floch, MD, a professor of gastroenterology at Yale University, co-author of Probiotics: A Clinical Guide, and a consultant for the Dannon Company.
Still, probiotics may be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems or serious illnesses. One study found that patients with severe pancreatitis who were given probiotics had a higher risk of death. It’s always best to consult with your doctor before taking anything new in general, but especially for those that have weakened immune systems.
THE ULTIMATE PROBIOTIC!
BRAD KING’S ULTIMATE PROBIOTIC contains one of the most research-proven beneficial probiotic species – bifidobacterium – and the main intestinal microflora residing mostly in the colon. Ultimate Probiotic has been proven safe in over 30 years of studies and has been consumed in yogurt in Japan for over 20 years. It is also backed by over 15 years of controlled studies proving its efficacy and is the only probiotic available today to carry the highly proven shelf-stable BB536 strain of bifidobacterium. [VEGI CAPSULES]
For a complete list of all the different types of Probiotics and their health benefits please visit: http://www.onhealth.com/probiotics/page3.htm