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7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Probiotics

Think probiotics are only helpful for those with stomach or digestive issues? Think again.  Experts say that 70% to 80% of our immune systems are located in the gut, so a healthy gastrointestinal tract is important not just for our digestive systems but for our overall health.

That is where probiotics can come into play.  These live microorganisms, known as “good bacteria” may improve and maintain the health of your gut and therefore your health.

My son has a gastrointestinal disease and recently began taking a daily probiotic to restore his gut health. After learning about their potential benefits, I have begun taking one as well.

Probiotics may come in the form of tablets, powders, drinks, or in some fortified foods, such as yogurt.  The most commonly used bacteria in probiotics are: lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and saccharomyces boulardii.  Probiotics are generally considered safe since the bacteria in probiotics are already present in small amounts in the body. With that said, it is still important to use a probiotic from a reputable manufacturer. You may wish to speak with your pharmacist and/or healthcare provider before starting on a probiotic.

The potential benefits of probiotics have become a hot topic for medical researchers. Evidence now suggests that you may be able to treat, prevent, or lessen the effects of some illnesses with daily probiotic use. Here are some of the other potential advantages of probiotics:

  • The many potential benefits of probiotics 1 of 8
    Probiotic Use
  • Female Urinary Tract Health 2 of 8
    Urinary Tract Health

    The urinary tract can be disturbed by the presence of antibiotics, birth control pills, and even spermicides. Researchers believe that probiotics may restore the system and help fight off common and extremely uncomfortable urinary tract issues, such as: bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections. If you have any of these types of infections recurrently, you may want to talk with your healthcare practitioner about giving probiotics a try.

    Source: Harvard University

  • Crohn’s Disease & Irritable Bowel Syndrome 3 of 8
    Gastrointestinal Disorders

    A large scale study is needed to determine the definitive benefits of probiotics for those with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Those who have these gastrointestinal disorders know that they can be painful and difficult to treat.

    A few small studies have suggested that certain probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse of Crohn's disease, as well as a recurrence of pouchitis (a complication of surgery to treat ulcerative colitis). Though more large-scale research is needed, some patients are already using probiotic supplements with relief. If you think that probiotics may be helpful for you, speak with your healthcare practitioner.

    Source: Medscape, National Institutes of Health

  • Oral Health 4 of 8
    Oral Health

    It is believed that replacing bad bacteria with good can also help with oral issues such as: foul smelling breath, periodontal disease, tonsil stones, and other oral health issues.

    A recent study released by the International Journal of General Medicine found that the probiotic BLIS K12 is effective in preventing reoccurring infections in the mouth and throat in children, while a second study found the same potential benefits for adults.  BLIS (bacteriocin-like-inhibitory substances) is a specific strain of streptococcus salivarius that may help promote healthy bacteria in the mouth when taken on a daily basis.

    Source: National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Health, European Journal of Dentistry

  • Strep Throat & Tonsillitis 5 of 8
    Strep Throat & Tonsilitis

    It should be no surprise (based on the last slide) that researchers have found that probiotics can be helpful for reducing recurrent issues with throat and ear infections, both of which are also associated with the BLIS and K12. A small study of adults with a history of recurrent throat and ear infections showed an 80% reduction in episodes of streptococcal pharyngeal infection (strep throat) and a 60% reduction in pharyngitis when given a BLIS K12 probiotic. Another study showed that BLIS K12 may reduce the recurrence of throat infections and tonsillitis by up to 90%.

    Source: National Institutes of Health, Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, Nutraceutical Magazine

  • Emotions & Brain Activity 6 of 8
    Emotions & Brain Activity

    A small study out of the University of California Los Angeles shows some evidence that probiotics can actually modulate brain activity. Fascinating, is it not?

    Studies in animals have shown that changes in gut flora led to changes in affective behaviors, so researchers wanted to determine whether similar results could be found in humans. Using functional MRI, the research showed that women who regularly consumed yogurt fortified with probiotics showed altered activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation. This study shows some exciting promise for the future, though more extensive research is certainly needed.

    Source: Gastroenterology

  • Allergies 7 of 8
    Allergies

    As an allergy parent I have gotten used to hearing people say that they wonder why so many more children have allergies now than when they were growing up.  One theory is that we are so much cleaner now, with anti-bacterial products, organic foods, and more attention spent on germs. A couple of studies support that theory now. Allergies have increased, at least partially, because of a deficit of bacteria. The study exposed pregnant mothers and infants to probiotic bacteria to find out whether it stimulates the immune system enough to prevent allergies in children. 

    The researchers from the University of Helsinki determined that proteins associated with this type of tissue inflammation, which stimulates the immune system and prevents allergic reactions, were 50% higher on average in probiotic-treated infants. Probiotic children were also 30% less likely to develop atopic eczema, which is a common early sign of allergic response.

    With more research needed, in the future obstetricians may be recommending daily probiotics along with prenatal vitamins.

    Source: Wiley, The Journal of Nutrition

  • Autism 8 of 8
    Autism

    Since autistic children commonly have digestive issues, researchers at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute wanted to study the gut bacteria of autistic children versus non-autistic children. The results of their study showed a link between autism in children and a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Children with autism had fewer types of gut bacteria, including a deficit in: prevotella, coprococcus, and veillonellaceae.

    The prevotella copri bacteria occurred in very low levels only in the autistic children, so the researchers hope that a presence of prevotella copri in the gut can used in the future to find diagnostic biomarkers for autism. More conclusive research is warranted, though in the future a probiotic which includes these bacteria may be recommended for improving the gut health of children with autism.

    Study: Plus One

 

Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.

Read more from Jessica at FoundtheMarbles.com.  And be sure to follow her on Twitter too!

 

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