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Probiotics are alive, microscopic and hopefully thriving in your digestive tract. Fortunately for you and me, they are benign. They're even known as good bacteria.
Yes, that's right. Bacteria. But they're friendly bacteria.
It takes bacteria to fight bacteria apparently. And probiotics can kill unhealthy, disease-producing bacteria. There's a lot going on in our intestines that we don't want to know about.
More than you bargained for. But it's a valuable series of transactions.
Several hundred different types of bacteria are milling about in your large intestine, by the millions. This is a good thing, since they can reduce infections, flu symptoms and irritable bowel syndrome.
It is thought that 10 million colony forming units (CFU) per gram or per mL are needed daily to be effective.
Probiotics need to be impervious to upper GI conditions. They should be of human origin, for safety and efficacy, and adhere to the lining of the gut. They should stimulate good bacteria and suppress bad ones.
According to Edward Farnworth, who is a senior research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, probiotic bacteria releases chemicals in our digestive system that basically talk to your intestinal wall. And this conversation is causing your intestinal wall to initiate defenses against infection and disease.
Different combinations of eight strains or more of probiotics can ease inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and colitis. Probiotics can offset adverse effects of antibiotics. Probiotics can treat diarrhea, prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.
Probiotics may reduce eczema in children. About 20 percent of infants and toddlers develop red itchy skin on their cheeks, foreheads and scalps, sometimes spreading to other areas of their bodies.
By age two many recover, but some will struggle with it throughout their lives.
But probiotics may make a difference. It seems that even probiotics ingested by the mothers both before and after birth, can reduce the incidence of eczema in their children by about 40 percent.