8 Health Benefits of Probiotics

Guest Post by Evan J.

It’s not much of a stretch to claim that the basis of good health is in the gut. A healthy human gastrointestinal tract contains hundreds of millions of microorganisms, tiny life forms that provide such diverse functions as breaking down organic matter for digestion and stimulating the production of natural antibiotics to fight disease. If these colonies are under attack themselves, human health can suffer greatly. Fortunately, probiotic supplements provide a safe and natural way to assist the body in rebuilding and maintaining the kind of good bacteria that improve health.

What Are Probiotics ?

Probiotics are types of living bacteria that are beneficial to health. Called “friendly bacteria,” probiotics live in the gastrointestinal tract and counteract pathogenic or “bad” microorganisms such as E. coli or Candida albicans. One particular strain of probiotic, known as Lactobacillus acidophilus, has been shown to create a natural antibiotic which increases the body’s ability to fight illnesses.

Don’t Humans Already Have Probiotics in Their Bodies?

Healthy human bodies maintain a steady growth of probiotic cultures in the gut, but stress, bad dietary habits, some medications, and toxins in the environment combine to reduce the amount of natural probiotics available. Modern antibiotics and their overuse pose a particular problem because antibiotics are indiscriminate. They attempt to kill all microorganisms present in the gut regardless of whether they’re beneficial or pathogenic.

Probiotic supplements help rebuild the colonies of friendly bacteria that provide an important basis for good health, especially for those who endure regular courses of antibiotic therapy.

Probiotics have positive effects on a wide range of health issues. More research is underway, but probiotics have already proven themselves in the following ways:

* Immune system support. The presence of probiotic strains in the gut limit the ability of known pathogens to reproduce. They also appear to have some control over the level of antibodies present, which lead to better immune system response.

* Reducing incidences of yeast infections and vaginitis. Antibiotic regimens and even some birth control pills have harmful effects on the levels of beneficial flora in the vagina. Probiotics restore that balance, making it more difficult for Candida and other pathogens to reproduce to toxic levels.

* Increases the body’s ability to derive nutrition from food. Clinicians call this “bio-availability” and studies have shown that probiotics improve the body’s ability to extract nutrients such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and the entire B vitamin family.

* Reduces lactose intolerance. Acidophilus and similar active bacterial cultures reduce a body’s digestive intolerance to lactose, the sugar-like substance found in dairy products.

* Relief for IBS , or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The probiotic strain known as Bifidobacterium infantis has shown a marked ability to normalize bowel function for IBS sufferers.

* Relief for constipation. Probiotics normalize or balance the amount of time it takes for fecal matter to pass through the lower intestinal tract. This provides dramatic lessening of constipation, especially in the elderly.

* Fights diarrhea. The same balancing effect in the gut which normalizes the transit of fecal matter also treats diarrhea. Probiotics significantly lower the incidence of diarrhea and diaper rash in babies who are treated with doses appropriate for infants.

* As an effective treatment for gas and bloating.

Probiotics can be acquired through a healthy diet that’s particularly rich in cultured dairy products like yogurt, buttermilk, and goat cheese. They can also be found in leafy greens, which contain high amounts of other vitamins and minerals necessary for additional immune system support. In the event a normal diet can’t provide enough probiotics for relief, they’re available commercially in supplement form.