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Food Trends: The guts on probiotics

To explain probiotics simply, they are the beneficial bacteria found in food or supplements that help destroy the ‘bad bacteria’ and maintain gut health.  Some food products such as yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, and miso have probiotics in them.  You can find out if products you eat contain probiotics by checking out the ingredient list.  If the ingredient list states live or active cultures, lactobacillus, or acidophilus you can bet the product contains probiotics.

It is thought that probiotics can help treat diarrhea, prevent yeast infections and urinary tract infections, help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and also help heal eczema or skin disorders.

I have a lot of clients ask me what my thoughts are on probiotics.   As there is not a lot of research that ties definitive results from probiotics, I think there is enough published information that allows for a hypothetical conclusion that probiotics are beneficial for specific situations.  Read on to see some examples.

Research from my alma mater, Virginia Tech in conjunction with Ohio State University found that newborn pigs that received a vaccine similar to one for the rotavirus infection who paired it with a probiotic had a better immune response than newborn pigs who received the vaccine alone.  Also, in September 2010 Pediatrics published that a daily dose of "good" bacteria may help infants cry less. At initiation of study all infants were crying five to six hours a day.  After three weeks of treatment with a probiotic or placebo, babies who received probiotics cried for an average of a half hour a day, while the placebo babies cried for an hour and a half a day.  Perhaps this study suggests how probiotics can ease gastrointestinal symptoms related to colic?

Pediatrics also published an article in 2005 that showed that children who attend daycare and consume probiotics had a significance decrease in onset and duration of diarrhea.  Another study completed in China produced significant results with children who drank a mixture of probiotics in milk twice a day during the winter and spring.  Guess what?  Children with fevers, coughs, or runny noses receiving probiotics recovered faster.

In 2004, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published results of a study that proved that humans and animals ingesting probiotics significantly reduced H. Pylori, a precursor to ulcers.

If you or someone you know suffers from ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, or consistent GI symptoms talk to your practitioner and see what he or she recommends.  An easy way to initiate and do a self assessment is to try any of the yogurts containing probiotics. Take one a day and see how you feel.  Good luck and be well!

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