North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

August 19, 2009

You’ve seen and heard about ‘probiotics,’ but what do they do?

By Robert Ellis

Special to The North Jefferson News




You can’t turn the television on today and not see a commercial for probiotics.

Probiotics, which means, “for life,” have been used for centuries as natural components in health-promoting foods. Experiments into the benefits of probiotic therapies suggest a range of potentially beneficial medicinal uses.



What are they?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when taken in adequate amounts, provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition.

The human body contains billions of beneficial bacteria and other types of microorganisms which inhabit the digestive tract. They help with digestion and provide protection from other, harmful bacteria that can cause infection.

Usually, the term “probiotics” refers to dietary supplements or foods that contain beneficial or “good” bacteria that are similar to those normally found in the body. Although not necessary for good health, probiotics may provide some of the same health benefits that the bacteria already existing in the body do.

There is a growing public and scientific interest in probiotics. Researchers are studying whether if taken as foods or supplements they can help treat or prevent illness. There is encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:

• Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics

• Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections

• Treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

• Manage lactose intolerance

• Shorten the duration of intestinal infections

• Prevent and treat inflammation following colon surgery (pouchitis)

• Reduce bladder cancer recurrence

• Prevent eczema in children

Where do I find probiotics?

Probiotics are available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements (capsules, tablets, and powders) and in food. Manufacturers are promoting the use of food products that contain probiotics such as yogurt, milk, juice, soy drinks and other snack foods. In probiotic foods and supplements, the bacteria may have been present originally or added during preparation.

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