Probiotics have been gaining popularity because they help people feel healthy, especially when it comes to digestive-related illnesses and support of immune function. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, gas and bloating are a few problems that probiotics can help.
Probiotics comes from the roots “pro” and “biota” which means “for life”.
According to the Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases the “internationally endorsed definition of probiotics is live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Probiotics and normal digestive health
There are more microorganisms living in a healthy digestive system than cells have in our body. In our digestive tract we have an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms present, creating a healthy bowel. The microorganisms outnumber human cells by about 10 to 1. So these microorganisms are vital to our digestive survival.
There are more than 500 different species that make up that immense number of microorganisms.
We have a beneficial relationship with these microorganisms that provide support for normal digestion and immunity. When the balance of beneficial microorganisms becomes compromised because of infections or damage to the intestinal lining, researchers believe this can create digestive problems.
Eating foods high in probiotics or taking probiotic supplements may help restore balance.
“Probiotics can improve intestinal function and maintain the integrity of the lining of the intestines,” said Stefano Guandalini, MD, professor of pediatrics and section chief of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Health problems that could be improved by taking probiotics
Researchers at Yale University found probiotics to be a potential benefit in the following common diseases:
• Treating childhood diarrhea
• Treating ulcerative colitis
• Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea
• Treating and preventing eczema associated with cow’s milk allergy
• Helping the immune system
• Treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
• Treating vaginitis
• Treating Crohn's disease
Probiotics are generally considered safe for people to use. If you have a weakened immune system you should check with your doctor before starting a supplementation plan.
Foods that are high in probiotics
Probiotics are actually microorganisms that are created during the fermentation process of many types of foods and they are also found in our digestive system. There are some foods which are high in probiotics that are found in many cultures.
A sure-fire way to get probiotics is to make your own or procure the homemade version. Many commercial products don’t have high amounts or they have supplementation that has been added after cooking.
Many foods are high in probiotics. Here are a few for you to consider.
• Soft Cheese
• Sourdough bread
• Sour pickles (with sea salt and water, not vinegar)
Probiotics are part of a normal healthy digestive system and more research is being done to show numerous benefits of making probiotics part of your dietary or supplemental routine.
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"Health benefits of taking probiotics." Health benefits of taking probiotics. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.
"Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.
"Slideshow: Foods With Probiotics That Help Digestion." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.
Reviewed July 30, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith