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March 13, 2006

Probiotics Could Be A Key To Good Health

Topics: Health Issues

probiotic.bmp It's good to see probiotics in the news. Probiotics are bacteria that we eat on purpose and they're good for our health. We can find them in a number of foods that are readily available in the supermarket, and they taste good. You can support probiotic growth by increasing the amount of cultured dairy products you eat, such as cheeses and yogurt, and the foods that encourage probiotics from these dairy products to multiply even further: spices, tea, red wine, berries, apples and beans. You can also take probiotic supplements; there are a number of good products on the market.

To most people, bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of tossing down a few billion a day for your health might seem like nothing short of wierd. But there's a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates you can treat and even prevent some illnesses with foods and supplements containing certain kinds of live bacteria.

Researchers are discovering that this "good" bacteria helps not only to stimulate digestive health, but may stimulate a healthy immune system. These probiotic bacteria may even be a key to understanding obesity. Gary Huffnagle, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan Health System, is one of the country's leading researchers into the world of probiotics.

"Current research into this microbial world is uncovering many benefits to eating a diet rich in probiotic nutrients

Huffnagle says that most of these good microbes exist within our body in the digestive track, with the largest number occurring in the small and large intestines.

"It's the job of these good microbes to stimulate our immune system, and the other job they do is to stimulate good digestive health," he says.

Historically, until about five years ago, probiotics were considered only within the realm of complementary and alternative medicine. As our understanding of the immune system and how it works has expanded, so has the understanding of the importance of probiotics and probiotic microbes in the gastrointestinal track in regulating the immune system.

"Today, the world of probiotics is emerging on the cutting-edge of mainstream medicine," Huffnagle says.

We inadvertently kill off the good microbes in our body with antibiotics. Since antibiotics are necessary for killing the bad microbes that cause some diseases, they are important for helping to keep people healthy. However, the side effect to taking antibiotics is the elimination of the good microbes within our body along with the bad ones.

"We're now finding that eliminating all the good microbes from our body results in a weaker immune system, which we believe is leading to problems such as increased incidence of chronic disease, including allergies like asthma," Huffnagle says. "Once you take antibiotics as your physician prescribed, follow it with some form of probiotic supplement to get the microflora in your gut back to where it should be. Your recovery and your health will be much greater."

Since probiotic microbes do not cause disease, there's no such thing as having too much of them. And Huffnagle points out that foods rich in probiotics taste good.

Read more at Medical News Today...

Probiotics are generally considered safe, they're already present in a normal digestive system, although there's a theoretical risk for people with impaired immune function. So you need to be sure the ingredients are clearly marked on the label and familiar to you or your health provider. There's no way to judge the safety of unidentified mixtures.

In the United States, most probiotics are sold as dietary supplements, which do not undergo the testing and approval process that drugs do. Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they're safe before they're marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. But there's no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you're taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains are necessarily useful, so you may want to consult a practitioner familiar with probiotics to discuss your options. As always, let your primary care provider know what you're doing.

My personal preference is drinking a shake made with soy milk (I use vanilla) and "Green Vibrance" powder (18 billion probiotics per serving at date of manufacture - keep it in your freezer after opening). You get the benefit of a true undiluted food source of a superfood source vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, co-nutrients and a probiotic blend of all the proper bacteria in the right mix and proportions. Some may find it a bit pricey, but in my opinion, it's well worth it.

In the way of a disclaimer, I have no financial interest in Green Vibrance. However, I have used it through two personal battles with stage-IV cancer when in-take of proper nutrition and appropriate probiotics were critical (especially through surgery, and subsequent chemo-radiation), and have now been using it for a period of five years. However, it bears repeating here - you should always check with your physician before taking any supplements, especially while under treatment for a disease.

PDR Health: Probiotics
Probiotics and Intestinal Microbiology Papers
Harvard Family Health Guide: Health benefits of taking probiotics

Posted by Richard at March 13, 2006 6:36 AM

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