Guest Post – Probiotics: Friendly Bacteria Working for Your Gut

It’s my pleasure to introduce to you today guest blogger and recent cyber friend Dr. Leta Vaughan. Dr. Leta shares her experience in women healthcare on her blog www.biohormonesinc.com and will be discussing here the benefits of probiotics.

In her own words, Dr. Leta Vaughan APN, CNM has been working with women and promoting healthcare for over 30 years. Dr. Vaughan is board certified and advocates an effective combination of balanced nutrition, exercise, and supplements to enhance a woman’s changing lifestyle needs.

Welcome Dr. Leta.

Probiotics have become mainstream. Numerous studies have documented their beneficial effects, and a growing number of healthcare providers are recommending probiotics for various gut-related conditions. A simple keyword search for “probiotic therapy” on PubMed produces almost 7,500 studies. A study published in The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases & Medical Microbiology in 2004  greatly contributed to the clinical understanding of probiotic therapy because it outlined the ability of probiotics to repopulate gut flora after antibiotic therapy and to manage gut-related issues such as diarrhea.

What Are Probiotics?

In the human body, bacteria outnumber cells by 10 to 1. The small intestine contains billions of bacteria, and the colon houses trillions of bacteria. Of the approximately 500 strains of bacteria, 20 make up about 75% of gut bacteria. Some of these bacteria strains are friendly and referred to as probiotics. They live in the small and large intestines.

The most important strain, Lactobacillus, resides in the small intestine.

Bifidobacterium lives in the colon.

How do Probiotics Help?

Together, these strains work to promote gut health by inhibiting harmful bacteria and boosting the immune system function.  They also help manufacture many B vitamins as well as vitamin K, help digest lactose, help normalize cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and help break down and rebuild hormones. Ingesting probiotics can provide benefit for people who eat a bad diet, experience frequent stress or develop diarrhea or constipation.

Research has shown other benefits of friendly flora include the help in overcoming

  • recurrent bladder infections
  • vaginal infections
  • lactose intolerance
  • high blood pressure
  • cancer
  • immune system regulation
  • kidney stones
  • cholesterol
  • allergies

How do we Lose our Natural Probiotics?

A diet high in sugar, white flour, fried foods and caffeine decreases levels of friendly flora by reducing vitamin and mineral absorption. Such diets are a vicious cycle causing increased craving resulting in even further nutrient insufficiency.

 Probiotics do not replace a healthy diet but they can help repopulate gut flora, increase nutrient absorption and stop this vicious cycle.

Stress can trigger or exacerbate intestinal inflammation, destroying friendly gut flora and weakening the immune system. Research has shown that probiotics  can repopulate beneficial bacteria to enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation and prevent GI effects of stress.

Scientists have studied effects of probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)  and have found a link between low serotonin levels and IBS.  Lactobacillus rhamnosus has been linked to reduce stress and anxiety and lower levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone). With the gut producing about 95% of the body’s serotonin, taking a probiotic may provide help for people with IBS as well as people suffering from depression.

What Probiotics Should I Take?

Many foods contain many natural forms of probiotics. Some include:

  • cottage cheese
  • yogurt
  • sauerkraut
  • kefir
  • miso and tempeh

For enhanced results Probiotic Supplements may be recommended. In order to benefit heath and repopulate the gut, the body needs billions of flora along with multiple strains. Many commercially prepared products contain millions of only one bacteria. Shelf life can be an issue, as probiotics are living organisms and consumers need to check sell-by dates. Last, if the product has not been encapsulated correctly, the stomach’s acids may destroy the bacteria before it arrives in the small intestine.

The average person benefits from a supplement that contains about 5 billion mixed-strain probiotics. Consumers should look for the following:

  • A professionals-only brand with guaranteed potency that offers billions of a combination of strains. (Most of these require refrigeration.)

Talk to your health professional  and do a thorough search for the product that is right for you.

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