Many people are conditioned to think of bacteria as being bad, dirty and unhealthy as in bad germs, so it is understandable, there is a lot of resistance to the idea of swallowing a few billion of them each day, but the benefits of probiotics to our whole system are immense. Pro means positive and biota means for life so we get “probiotics”. These have been part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years and can be found in most traditional diets.
There are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms from over 500 different species living in the bowel of normal healthy individuals. The vast majority of them keep us healthy by keeping harmful microorganisms (pathogens) under control, aiding in digestion and contributing to the proper function of our immune system.
The top 11 health benefits of Probiotics are controlling:
- Diarrhoea and constipation
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Ulcers caused by H. pylori
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal infections
- Bladder Cancer
- Digestive tract infection from Clostridium difficile
- Eczema in children
- Pouchitis, a side effect from surgery to treat ulcerative colitis and the colon
Probiotics and gut health
The most successful treatments for constipation and diarrhoea, two very common, but opposite conditions, is the use of probiotics. This is because these conditions are usually caused by harmful pathogens in the system and can be the result of taking antibiotic medications that disrupt normal gut microflora.
Probiotics and vaginal health
The delicately balanced ecosystem of the vagina, like the intestinal tract, can be affected by the use of things like birth control pills, spermicides and medications such as antibiotics which disrupt the dominant Lactobacilli strains. Normally, the environment of the vagina is too acidic for the majority of harmful microorganisms to survive in and probiotics can help restore the balance and control urogenital problems such as yeast infections, vaginosis and urinary tract infection.
One of the most common sources of probiotics is from natural live yogurt, pasteurised yogurt obtained from most stores does not contain natural probiotics. Some processed yogurt products have artificial probiotics added; there is no way to judge the safety or effect of these unidentified mixtures. Not all probiotics are the same and different strains can have very different effects, so it is important to know which probiotics you’re taking in order to achieve the required benefits.
There are some strains of probiotics that can help fight tooth decay by destroying cavity causing organisms in the mouth, these do not need to be swallowed to be effective, other types need to be strong enough to survive a trip through our digestive system to reach the intestines and provide their benefits.
As the health benefits of probiotics are strain-specific it is important to discuss with your primary health care provider who is familiar with probiotics if you wish to change your diet or use any type of supplement.
Although the scientific community and modern medicine are only starting to recognise the benefits of probiotics they’ve been known for thousands through the use of natural medicine. The early Egyptians Incas, Asian and Indian cultures used probiotics from cheese, yogurt and preserves for healing and maintaining health.