Know Your Nutrients: Probiotics

Know Your Nutrients: Probiotics

by Amanda Hawkinson

What are probiotics? Probiotics are microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast that are believed to improve health and are available in foods, as well as, supplement form. It may seem strange to take live bacteria/yeast, especially when it is common practice to take antibiotics and use antibacterial substances to fight bacteria. However, our bodies naturally teem with such organisms.

For example, the digestive system is home to more than 500 different bacterial species. They help with a variety of functions, including keeping intestinal linings healthy and assisting in breaking down food. They are also believed to help regulate healthy immune response.

It is believed that some digestive disorders are the result of a disrupted balance of friendly bacteria in the intestines.  This can happen after an infection or after taking antibiotics. Intestinal problems can also arise when the intestinal lining is damaged. Introducing new beneficial organisms in the form of probiotics may help.

There’s also evidence that probiotics assist in maintaining a strong immune system. Research has shown an increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases in societies with very good hygiene. This may be caused by the immune system not being properly challenged by pathogenic organisms. By introducing friendly bacteria in the form of probiotics the immune system is challenged in a healthy way.

Although evidence is still being gathered, researchers say there is enough data to rate the effectiveness of probiotics for several specific illnesses. In 2008, a panel of experts at Yale University reviewed the latest findings. They concluded that probiotics are most effective for:

  • Acute childhood diarrhea
  • Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea
  • Preventing pouchitis, an intestinal inflammation that can follow serious intestinal surgery
  • Regulating immune response
  • Treating and preventing eczema associated with cow’s milk allergy

Probiotics may also be useful in unexpected ways. A study published in 2010 suggests that probiotics may decrease the risk of common childhood problems such as ear infections, strep throat, colds, and diarrheal illness. The study included 638 children aged 3 to 6 in day care centers/schools. The children who drank a yogurt drink containing a probiotic were 19% less likely to come down with a common infection.

What form of probiotics is the best to take? Probiotics come in many forms, including powders, tablets, capsules, and foods such as yogurts and dairy drinks. Experts say that the form you take them in doesn’t matter, as long as it contains enough live organisms to begin growing in the intestines. Experts say the effective dose varies widely, from as little as 50 million to as many as 1 trillion live cells per dose.

Stop by the Riordan Clinic Supplement Store today and take advantage of 15% off of Dr. Kaumeyer’s staple supplements, including probiotics. Call 316-682-3100 for more information.