When people hear the word ‘bacteria’ they think of disease and illness but there are millions of good bacteria living on and inside the human body - and without them we could not survive. The environment in which microbes this bacteria lives is called the microbiome and if it’s not in balance or is unhealthy, then we feel it.
The live microorganisms found in cultured foods such as yogurt may help improve your microbiome both inside and out(1). The good bacteria, called probiotics, which means for life, is now believed to play a role in more than physical health, but mental health as well. So it’s widely known that we carry good and bad germs or bacteria in and on our bodies(1), and many people worldwide now use probiotic products to treat illnesses and improve their wellbeing.
How Do Probiotics Work?
As mentioned, our bodies harbour a mix of both good and bad bacteria which live just about everywhere: our mouths, on our skin and in our gut, and skin. When we have an imbalance in our microbiome (too many bad strains of bacteria and not enough ‘good ones) probiotics may help to improve our immune function, protect us against ‘bad’ bacteria, thus preventing infection and improving our digestion and absorption of nutrients.
The use of probiotics can result in a barrier against hostile bacteria and also aid in rebalancing the polulations destroyed by antibiotics. Antibiotics don’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria but kills them all and this can lead to diarrhoea, cramps, and gas. Probiotics can help to relieve these symptoms(2).
What are the Potential Benefits of Probiotics?
Used to treat conditions such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea(3), and ulcerative colitis, probiotics may help relieve the discomfort and rebalance the microbiome. It’s also believed that probiotics may aid in the breaking down of fats and proteins in the digestive tract which is a substantial help to postoperative patients needing to rebuild their strength - but also for those who have been ill, and for toddlers and infants. And an increasing amount of scientific evidence(1) suggests that the use of supplements and foods containing various kinds of live bacteria can be beneficial to treat and prevent illness. In countries such as Japan and those in Northern Europe people follow traditions of eating foods containing beneficial microorganisms - foods fermented with bacteria, such as yogurt and probiotic-laced beverages.
Where Can I Get Probiotics?
Apart from specially formulated supplements such as Immunity Fuel Organic Probiotics which are more convenient and may contain many more of the millions of kinds of probiotics, you can find some common ones in cultured or fermented dairy products, but other sources include:
- Some soy beverages.
- Fermented milk and buttermilk.
- Miso and Tempeh
Food marketers now sell probiotic-containing products, which include
- Infant formula.
- Probiotic cereals
- Granola bars
- Sour cream and cottage cheese
In these foods, the good bacteria can occur naturally or be added in preparing them. You can also buy probiotics as supplements in powder form, or as tablets or capsules. Some need to be refrigerated, so check with your provider. (Immunnity Fuel Probiotics are shelf stable)
What Strains of Probiotics That Are Helpful?
- Lactobacillus Acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus Casei
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus Gasseri
- Bifidobacterium Lactis
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum
- Bifidobacterium Longum
- Enterococcus Faecium
- Saccharomyces Boulardii.
For a product to be considered probiotic, it has to contain one of the above strains and all yogurts must be treated with the strains Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Do Probiotics Work?
- Crohns' Disease
- Helicobacter Pylori (causes ulcers)
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Vaginal infections (thrush etc)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Urinary Tract infections
- Bladder Cancer Recurrence
- Clostridium Difficile Infection of the digestive tract
- Pouchitis (can occur after surgery to remove the colon)
- Childhood Eczema
But there is research that suggests probiotics may be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of various allergy related conditions, colds and flu, Infant Colic, constipation and liver diseases,
How Safe are Probiotics?
Since good bacteria is already resident in the human gut and digestive system it is usually considered safe to consume. But you should always ensure the ingredients are marked clearly on labels and they are familiar to your health provider or to you because if not, then you won’t know what you are taking.
To be on the safe side, always check with your healthcare provider to make sure your supplements are not going to conflict with any other medication you might be taking. If you’re pregnant or a nursing mother, or if you want to give your child any dietary supplement including a probiotic, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know about it.
Allen SJ, Martinez EG, Gregorio GV, et al. Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2010;(11):CD003048.
Author Bio: Dr. David Badov, Melbourne
Dr. Badov has been a practising specialist physician with nearly 30 years experience in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. Bowel Cancer Prevention, Preventative Medicine and Longevity has been an integral part of his research into the latest medical advances, technology and wellness tools to incorporate into HealthScreen.