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Probiotics

By
Lynne Brown
BSc Hons, HDE, Dip Clin Nutr

Did you know that your digestive tract is 26 feet long and 4 kilograms of bacteria live in it? Good health begins in your gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, where 400-500 species of friendly bacteria live to help build and protect your health. These tiny organisms are called ‘probiotics’: pro meaning ‘for’ and biotic meaning ‘life’.  But virtually everyone, due to contemporary lifestyles and poor diet, antibiotics and other drugs, has wiped away many of these good bacteria, leaving themselves with dangerously depleted defenses against disease. Instead of having an entire army in our digestive tracts, defending against bad bacteria, viruses, and other invaders, we are left with only a meagre few soldiers to do the work.

Bad bacteria

Your GI tract ideally contains 85% good bacteria and just 15% bad bacteria. Unfortunately, most of us have eaten foods and taken supplements and drugs that cause this ratio to actually reverse. When you make poor food choices that include sugars and processed grains you feed the "bad" bacteria, which are more likely to cause disease, rather than promoting the "good" bacteria that help protect you from disease.

Symptoms

Today digestive problems tend to be the rule rather than the exception for both children and adults.

Some symptoms that can result from an imbalance of bacteria in the intestinal tract are:

  • Gas, Bloating and Indigestion
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Diarrhea and/or Constipation
  • Skin problems such as Acne, Eczema & Psoriasis
  • Bad Breath and Body Odour
  • Delayed development in children
  • Candida Yeast Infections
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • Chronic Fatigue & Fibromyalgia
  • Frequent Colds and Flu

The Solution

You need to replenish the "army" of good bacteria in your gut, and keep it replenished by regularly taking a course of probiotics. Apart from helping your body to digest and absorb food they:

  • keep the colon and digestive tract healthy
  • keep candida albicans (yeast) infections in check
  • have cholesterol lowering properties
  • prevent food and skin allergies in children
  • destroy fungal growth
  • make vitamins A, B and K
  • prevent infections
  • prevent chronic diarrhea
  • boost the immune system

Going somewhere?

Probiotics are a must when traveling to foreign countries. Take them regularly as a preventative measure. If its too late, then using a high quality probiotic every 30-60 minutes will typically resolve most cases of acute infectious diarrhea relatively quickly. So be sure to take probiotics with you when traveling anywhere, not only overseas.

Taking antibiotics?

If you are taking antibiotics without probiotics, then you are taking unnecessary risks. Unfortunately antibiotics are, for the most part, immunosuppressants that will further weaken your immune system by destroying the friendly bacteria guarding your intestines. Every time you swallow antibiotics, you kill large numbers of beneficial bacteria in your intestine, upsetting the delicate balance in your intestinal tract. And these friendly bacteria can be quickly replaced by hostile bacteria, including Candida yeast, a powerful member of the fungi family. As your intestinal bacteria die, yeasts can thrive and even use their tendrils to literally poke holes through the lining of your intestinal wall, resulting in a syndrome called leaky gut. More recently, scientists presented findings that linked antibiotics with allergies and asthma. So, it's important to remember that while your antibiotic may save you from one problem, it may cause a host of other problems. There is a common misconception that you should wait until you are finished your course of antibiotics before taking probiotics. Even though the antibiotic is killing the good bacteria, that's exactly when you need it the most. However do not take the probiotic at the same time as the antibiotic – allow a 4 hour interval between them.
You should also be aware that, even if you are careful to avoid antibiotic prescriptions, you still might be taking them with every bite of beef you eat. That's because more antibiotics per kilogram are used on livestock than in human medicine. Even more reason to regularly supplement with probiotics to strengthen your immune system.

Quality counts

Now you know why probiotics are necessary, but in order to do their job effectively, the number of colonies of micro-organisms in your probiotic supplement must be high and of good quality. I wish that choosing an effective probiotic formula was as simple as making a trip to your local health shop. Unfortunately, not every product that claims to be a "probiotic" actually contains the number of bacteria (or even the type of bacteria) associated with this claim. One Belgian study found that one-third of probiotic products tested, did not provide any of the promised benefits. So, when it comes to your health, the proactive approach is always the way to go.

Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional.  All serious disease needs a physician.

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