5 Reasons to Boost Your Probiotic Intake
When you think of probiotics, you’re probably most familiar with the live active cultures that inhabit your favorite yogurt. And, you may also think that their benefits are confined to the digestive system. But, think again! You might be surprised to learn how your overall health depends on your digestive health. Probiotics are bacterial organisms, which inhibit the presence of other harmful microorganisms (the ones that can make you sick) within your digestive tract. While they do most of their work in the intestines, probiotics can provide a wide range of other health benefits.
Potency and effectiveness can vary greatly among products. Typical dosage recommendations range from 1 to 5 billion CFU (colony-forming units, a measure of potency) per day for adults. Probiotic organisms are very sensitive to heat and light, so it hard to know for sure that the number of active probiotic organisms in a product corresponds with what is stated on the label. Products manufactured with technology designed to ensure “shelf-stability” are your best bet. For optimal results, look for a shelf-stable formula containing at least 3 billion CFU of multiple bacterial strains. Research has shown that different strains of bacteria have their own unique health benefits, which means that it’s important to use a product that contains several.
1. Probiotics help IBS sufferers.
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a chronic condition that is estimated to affect up to 25% of the general population. It is characterized by recurring symptoms of abdominal discomfort or pain associated with constipation, diarrhea, or both. In IBS, the gastrointestinal tract may function differently, working more slowly (or more quickly) than that of the average person. While the cause of this different “pace” of the gastrointestinal tract in IBS is not known, and while there is no cure, there are usually ways to help manage specific symptoms. Researchers reviewed 20 clinical trials and found that probiotic use was strongly associated with improvement in IBS symptoms and reduction in abdominal pain.
In addition, several studies presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting in 2008 highlighted the safety and efficacy of probiotics in improving symptoms and normalizing bowel movement frequency in patients suffering from constipation or diarrhea related to IBS. A systematic review of 19 randomized, controlled trials found that probiotics can provide relief for IBS sufferers. However, researchers are not yet sure whether the benefits are associated with a specific bacterial strain, or a combination of organisms.
2. Probiotics mitigate antibiotic side effects.
Researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health did a meta-analysis of 34 trials and found that probiotics significantly reduced diarrhea associated with antibiotic use by 52%, the risk of traveler’s diarrhea by 8% and cases of acute diarrhea from various causes by 34%.
3. Probiotics promote healthy immunity.
It’s been said that 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract! Maintaining the right balance of microorganisms in your intestines is key to optimal immune function. According to Australian research, you can stop the sniffles before they begin by taking a probiotic supplement. They found that the number of days distance runners—a population that tends to have weakened immunity—were sick was reduced by half when they took probiotics twice daily.
4. Probiotics fight respiratory illness.
A Swedish study found that the bacterial strain, Lactobacillus plantarum 299, may protect intubated, critically-ill patients from pneumonia. In fact, it was found to be as effective as a conventional antiseptic in reducing the occurrence of ventilator-associated pneumonia, a common complication in patients on breathing machines.
5. Probiotics lower bad cholesterol.
If heart disease is an issue for you, you may have a reason to pop probiotics. Researchers reported that the probiotic strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, was associated with decreased levels of a specific type of LDL lipids which have been associated with vascular inflammation, endothelial dysfunction and coronary atherosclerosis.
The bottom line is that adding probiotics to your nutrition regime can help your digestive system—and your immune system—work optimally as you age. In addition, probiotics have been shown to have numerous additional health benefits for overall health and vitality.
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Article updated on: May 8th, 2013