Nevertheless, the presence of certain bacteria in the lower gut benefits overall health, not only digestion. The science on the role of the lower gut is changing every day and has advanced significantly — even over the past 10 years. Research strongly suggests that a favorable bacterial balance in the lower gut positively affects the factors influencing heart disease, immunity, bone strength, depression, and obesity and weight loss. Science has only just begun to determine the roles that bacteria play in human health, but it seems clear that healthier people have healthier bacterial balances. People with poorly balanced bacteria levels are more likely to suffer serious health problems.
We’ll start with the headliner: the BIO-tract peral, which packs the equivalent of 75 billion CFUs into one tiny, filler-free, 5-billion CFUs pearl. The trick is in protecting those 5 billion CFUs over an 8 to 10-hour period, so they bypass your acidic stomach and reach your intestinal tract, alive and well, allowing you to experience the full and multitudinous benefits of plentiful and beneficial gut bacteria.
This cabbage condiment can frequently be found atop a mighty hot dog, but its roots trace all the way back to the 4th century B.C. Cabbage was fermented to preserve the veggie, resulting in what we all know as sauerkraut. Palmer points out that modern techniques for canning sauerkraut results in a product packed in a vinegar solution without live, active bacteria in the mix. For most probiotic power, eat fresh sauerkraut (look for live cultures on the label or buy it in the refrigerated section) or make it yourself at home.
Inside your body bacterial and other microbial cells live in close contact with your own cells, and in healthy conditions the thing that separates them from you is a layer of mucus. Between that layer of mucus and the inside of you is a layer of skin-like cells one-cell thick. One thing you have to understand about your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is that although it resides within you, it is really connected to the outside world, from your lips to your anus, and the things that protect you from the outside world are the mucus; the skin-like layer of cells with immune, nervous, and endocrine cells below it; and the beneficial microbes. At least 70 percent of your immune system is in your GI tract! This is why taking probiotics benefits the immune system greatly.
Studies have shown some benefits linked to Lactobacillus and treating and/or preventing yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infection, irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, traveler's diarrhea, diarrhea resulting from Clostridium difficile, treating lactose intolerance, skin disorders (fever blisters, eczema, acne, and canker sores), and prevention of respiratory infections.
The takeaway: Certain strains were found useful in preventing diarrhea among children being prescribed antibiotics. A 2013 review showed that after antibiotic use, probiotics help prevent Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea. A review focused on acute infectious diarrhea found a benefit, again for certain strains of bacteria at controlled doses. There’s also evidence that they may help prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious gastrointestinal condition) and death in preterm infants.
Many women are prone to yeast infections during or after antibiotic use. If you are one of these unlucky few, try taking a probiotic like the vH Probiotics with Prebiotics and Cranberry immediately before taking your antibiotics. (You may want to check with your doctor first though). These cultures may help with stomach upset and can also prevent a dreaded yeast infection!
While probiotics have been around as long as bacteria have, they were first officially identified for their health benefits in the early 20th century by Russian-born biologist Élie Metchnikoff. Metchnikoff believed that “good bacteria” like the microbes that produce lactic acid could prolong life and stave off senility, and actually recommended drinking sour milk daily for overall health. While Metchnikoff’s theories were pooh-poohed by many of his contemporaries, the first commercial probiotic, Yakult, hit the market in 1935 and is still on the shelves today.
Made from aged, fermented soybeans, this paste is brimming with probiotics. You can buy miso paste in a bunch of varieties (white, yellow, red, brown) and the darker the color, the deeper the taste. Miso is a great way to add a burst of earthy, savory flavor for few calories (only 25 to 30 per tablespoon), plus protein, fiber, and bone-strengthening vitamin K, says Sharon Palmer, RDN, author of Plant-Powered for Life. "While we need more research about how these types of fermented foods contribute to health, it's a good idea to introduce more of them into your diet," she says. Use miso to glaze fish or chicken before cooking, mix into a stir-fry recipe, or add to liquid to make a miso broth. One caveat: Miso is very high in sodium. One teaspoon, enough to make a cup of miso soup, has 473 mg of sodium, 21% of the daily recommended limit and 32% of the daily limit for those with high blood pressure.
For most of my life, I thought of probiotics as something I’d only drink if I lost a bet. Then stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) turned my intestinal tract into a nonstop river of shit—we’re talking weeks of everything I ate shooting straight out my butt in liquid form. The internet said probiotics were my best non-pharmaceutical bet to help my digestive system calm down, so I swallowed my pride (and my first kombucha ever) and kinda sorta saw the light. My IBS wasn’t cured, but probiotics did help me spend less time on the toilet wide-eyed with terror, and more time doing what’s really important in life—watching TV with my family.
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"Probiotics applied topically sit on the skin's surface and prevent the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria and parasites that can cause this immune system response," confirms Engelman. "This is known as 'bacterial interference,' as probiotics protect the skin and interfere with the ability of bad bugs like bacteria and parasites to provoke an immune reaction.
The discovery of the benefits of probiotics began with sour milk. Today we have many other options to get various bacteria from our foods, although it's not as simple as just adding them to the food. For there to be health benefits, the microorganism has to be able to survive the passage through the gastrointestinal tract, survive the food manufacturing process, and grow and survive during the ripening or storage period. Also, the bacteria must not negatively affect product quality and be included on the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
After suffering from liquid nighttime but painless diarrhea for over a year (which I semi-controlled with one Imodium/day), I had a colonoscopy that gave a diagnosis of microcolitis. After the colonoscopy, I developed for the first time excrutiatingly painful gas pain in the LLQ. Usually this pain started during aerobic activity such as walking, but not always. Sometimes I woke up with it. CT scan revealed nothing. Will a probiotic help and if so, which would be best? There are so many it is hard to choose.