Acidophilus and other probiotics are familiar to many. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that inhabit our gut. The average healthy person has 4-5 pounds of these critters in their intestinal tract.
The word “probiotic” means “for life”. Probiotics have several functions that enhance our lives and are essential to good health. These include synthesizing vitamins B complex and K, enhancing immune function by crowding out yeast and parasites, producing enzymes, helping regulate blood cholesterol, improving digestion and colon function, and helping to prevent certain types of cancer.
Probiotics are important because many things can upset the delicate balance in our intestinal tract. These include use of antibiotics, steroids, oral contraceptives, radiation, chlorinated water, refined sugar, poor diet, poor digestion, constipation, stress, etc.
An imbalance in the intestinal flora is known as dysbiosis. Scientists have determined that when dysbiosis occurs, the body becomes overloaded with toxins. Without essential probiotics, partially digested proteins can enter the bloodstream, contributing to eczema, nervous system disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and a variety of other immune system disorders.
GI tract problems such as leaky bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, spastic colon and irritable bowel syndrome are attributed to loss of probiotics and the overgrowth of detrimental bacteria, yeast or parasites.
Over 60 percent of you immune system is in your gut. When your intestinal tract is balanced with the right kind of bacteria, you naturally feel better, digest your food better and are more resistant to colds, flus, bacteria and parasites.
There are many good probiotic supplements on the market. Many of the companies making the supplements have researched the specific strains that will tend to colonize well. The delivery mechanism on the probiotics is important too.
Enteric and other specific gel coatings will ensure that the product is delivered to the small and large intestines rather than destroyed in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.
Also, probiotics tend to lose potency if they sit on the shelf too long, so check dates and make sure you have a live culture.
My personal favorite is the Japanese product by Dr. Ohhira that contains special strains of lactic acid bacteria that help to normalize pH in the colon. One specific strain contained in this probiotic has been shown to be effective against some of the most potent antibiotic resistant staph bacteria as well as E. coli and H. pylori.
Taking probiotics helps to maintain a healthy balance in the intestinal tract. They are particularly helpful if your digestive system is not working as well as you would like. Probiotics are also useful for certain skin conditions such as teenage acne.
Probiotics are very helpful critters. It is these helpful bacteria that keep us from being overrun with harmful bacteria, yeast, fungus and other parasites.
Margaret Durst is a naturopathic doctor who owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.