Intestinal flora plays an important role in our ability to fight infectious disease, providing a front line in our immune defense.
According to the US Surgeon General “Normal microbial flora provides a passive mechanism to prevent infection.”
It also manufactures many vitamins including: the B-complex vitamins, folic acid and vitamin K.
Experts have debated on how to define probiotics. One widely used definition, developed by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is that probiotics are "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." (Microorganisms are tiny living organisms -- such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts -- that can be seen only under a microscope.)
Some probiotic foods date back to ancient times, such as fermented foods and cultured milk products. Interest in probiotics in general has been growing; Americans' spending on probiotic supplements, for example, nearly tripled from 1994 to 2003.
Most probiotics are bacteria similar to those naturally found in people's guts, especially in those of breastfed infants (who have natural protection against many diseases). Most often, the bacteria come from two groups, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. Within each group, there are different species (for example, Lactobacillus acidophilus andBifidobacterium bifidus), and within each species, different strains (or varieties). A few common probiotics, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, are yeasts, which are different from bacteria.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium increase the absorption of minerals that require acid for absorption such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese.
It also increases our resistance to food poisoning. Some food-borne infections lead to chronic illness, causing heart and valve problems, immune system disorders, joint disease, and possibly even cancer. These floras make the intestinal tract inhospitable to the invading microbes. It is a misconception that they kill invading microbes. They actually change the environment by secreting large amounts of acids that make the area unsuitable for pathogens.
These floras can play a part in keeping your heart healthy. They normalize serum cholesterol and triglycerides.
Probiotics also help us to metabolize foreign substances, like mercury and pesticides and protects us from damaging radiation and harmful pollutants.
Probiotics can be helpful in other conditions also: hypertension, cancer, immune system stimulation, kidney stones, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and alcohol-induced liver disease.
Probiotics are available in foods and dietary supplements (for example, capsules, tablets, and powders) and in some other forms as well. Examples of foods containing probiotics are yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, and some juices and beverages made with soy. In probiotic foods and supplements, the bacteria may have been present originally or added during preparation.
While I rarely recommend supplements, some are beneficial. Since I am not a big advocate of dairy or soy products, I would encourage you to look into probiotics in supplement form.
If you feel that you could benefit from taking probiotics do the research and pick the one that is best for you.
Probiotics are an important part of achieving and maintaining good health.
I am a digestive health coach. I help my clients have more energy and a eliminate digestive problems by eating food they love!