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Probiotics to the Rescue?!?!

What are probiotics?  According to WebMD, probiotics are organisms such as bacteria or yeast that are believed to improve health. They're available in supplements and foods. The digestive system is home to more than 500 different types of bacteria. They help keep the intestines healthy and assist in digesting food.  They are also thought to help the immune system.

Probiotics are one of those supplements that many experts in western medicine believe may be helpful for a plethora of health problems, but feel that much more research is needed to confirm their efficacy.  Researchers would like to better understand how probiotics work in the body and specifically figure out the exact organisms and amounts needed for health benefits.  For example, Dr. Allan Walker a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston stated that "The future is bright for probiotics, but we need to get a lot more work done".

Probiotics have been a mainstay in Naturopathic Medicine for some time now. Many patients have seen health improvements from using them. Western medicine is a little slower to suggest using them until more research has been conducted. However, some M.D.s are recommending them to their patients.

Robbyn Sockolow, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center offers tips on choosing the right probiotic for your medical needs.

A simple dose of probiotics can help you clear up an infection, dampen the bad effects of antibiotics and boost your immune system ? It’s just a matter of knowing which one does what.

Good bacteria, i.e., probiotics, should make up 90 percent of the microbiota in your belly. But stress, illness and bad diet do happen in our lives and can skew the balance between bad and good bacteria, causing nastiness such as gastrointestinal distress, inflammation and eczema.

To right the scales in our gut, some doctors suggest taking a probiotic. Before you choose which one to help you, put on your spectacles. The label should tell you the genus, species and strain, the number of organisms contained in each dose and whether or not the pill has been tested by an independent third party (the FDA doesn’t regulate probiotics, so someone needs to vouch for the brand you choose.)

Probiotics come in two genus groups, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, and they may be helpful for treating different ailments. If you’re travelling abroad, try  saccharomyces boulardi before you leave. It can help prevent diarrhea, which usually is caused by contaminated food or water. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or G.I. distress, bifidobacterium infanits 35624, lactobacillus plantarum 299V and bifidobacterium bifidum MIMBb75 can all aid in relieving bloating, pain and gas.

Should you get a vaginal infection, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnous GR-1 and lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 may help clear up vaginosis and urinary tract infections. If you’re taking antibiotics for a UTI or other infection, doctors suggest lactobacillus rhamnous GG or saccharomyces boulardi six hours after each dose to keep the medicine from killing off all the good bacteria in your system as well as the bad.

Think of probiotics as vitamins especially for your digestive and reproductive systems, able to stave off the bad effects of infections and gastrointestinal dysfunction. 

Keep your eyes and ears open for more research into the health benefits of probiotics, especially in the world of allergies, boosting immune systems, obesity, and autism.

Source: Life by DailyBurn, by Perry Santonachote; Livescience, by Cari Nierenberg
Pamela Hasterok