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 bacteria is known as dysbiosis. Many people have this – you could be one of them. When dysbiosis occurs, the body becomes overloaded with toxins. Without essential probiotics, partially digested proteins can enter the bloodstream, contributing to allergies, eczema, nervous system disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, fibromyalgia, hormone imbalances, joint pain, migraine headaches 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 your 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. Probiotics tend to lose potency if they sit on the shelf too long, so check dates and make sure you have a live culture.
One of the best (and most expensive) is Dr. Ohhira’s that contains special strains of lactic acid bacteria that help to normalize pH in the colon. There are also many good probiotics that are not as expensive as the Dr. Ohhira’s. Health food stores typically have the best quality probiotics - so check with yours.
Take probiotics to help maintain a healthy balance in the intestinal tract. Probiotics are particularly helpful if your digestive system is not working as well as you would like.
If your probiotic is not doing the job, you may need to consider a product that will help kill off the harmful bacteria and/or yeast and also consider diet changes - but that is another column.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas. www.naturalcowgirl.wordpress.com