Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is characterized as abdominal pain and discomfort, gas and bloating, loose and frequent bowel movements, or constipation. Naturopaths for years have observed beneficial effects of acidophilus on IBS. Now there are clinical controlled studies to back up what the naturopaths have been saying for years. Acidophilus can boost intestinal flora (probiotics) and stabilize the intestines helping people get relief from IBS.
You may be wondering what is a probiotic? The term probiotic comes from 'pro', which means 'for', and 'bios', which means 'life'. So probiotic means 'for life'. Probiotic is a term used to describe nutritional supplements that contain live bacteria. Almost every brand of supplements out there has its own form of probiotic supplement.
Two of the most abundant and best known probiotics in the intestines are Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. These probiotics adhere to the intestinal walls and multiply helping keep our bodies healthy. Probiotics help keep fungus and yeast cells at bay. Probiotics help keep your stool soft, well formed, and aids in bowel movements. Probiotics can manufacture B vitamins and vitamin K; they also make lactase the enzyme that digests milk, and dairy products like cheese. Probiotics can help prevent cholesterol from entering the blood stream which means it can lower your total blood level cholesterol. Probiotics can bring balance to the immune system. Probiotics can also reduce dental cavities, aid in weight loss, make our bones strong and healthy, help control acne and help prevent illness such as cancer and autism. They help prevent Gastro intestinal (GI) infections in children who attend day care and elderly who live in a nursing home. Its not a well known fact, almost 70 percent of the body's immune system is actually located inside the GI tract. (1)
It's clear that probiotics are essential for proper intestinal health and over all health of the body. These probiotics will grow and multiple in the intestines all your life. It's easy for the probiotic balance to change and stop multiplying; it's as simple as getting the flue or traveling to a distant land or if one develops an infection and needs antibiotics. Antibiotics can devastate the probiotic colony in the intestines. The colony of probiotics can easily be overwhelmed so daily supplementation is something everybody should consider for optimal health.
One double blind, placebo controlled study tested over 350 women with IBS. They consumed 1 billion Bifidobacterium each day for four weeks. The women consuming the probiotic experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of IBS. Higher and lower doses were also tried with little added benefit. (2) Another study conducted administered 450 billion cells daily for eight weeks. This study combined Bifidobacterium, lactobacillus and streptococcus blend of probiotics. Patients reported significant improvement in bowel control and less abdominal pain and bloating after 8 weeks. (3)
Choosing the right probiotic is very important. At a minimum, look for a probiotic that is enteric coated. Stomach acid will destroy these live bacteria and enteric coated capsules can help preserve these beneficial bacteria for where they are needed, the intestinal tract.
Probiotics are very vulnerable to the elements. Probiotics are anaerobic organisms so oxygen can kill them. Sunlight or artificial light can kill probiotics; they love the dark and thrive in the lightlessness of the intestines. Make sure you keep your bottle sealed because probiotics do not like moisture either.
You man be thinking why should I buy a probiotic supplement when I can just eat yogurt? This is a good question! Take a look at your yogurt label or better yet look at what's not on the label. No matter how many lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were present at the time of manufacturing, there's no telling how many bacteria is left at the time you eat the yogurt, there is no probiotic potency guarantee. Look for a guarantee with x amount of probiotics on the label per serving. When you eat yogurt there is nothing protecting the probiotics from harsh stomach acids so the amounts that actually make it down to the intestinal tract is very little.
Almost all health problems experienced today are related in some way to the process of digestion. Keep your digestive tract as healthy as possible by taking a high quality probiotic that are viable and robust, that has a guarantee of potency and that is enteric coated. Make sure you take it daily for optimal health.
1. Porth CM. Principles of digestion. In: Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott; 2002:136-145.
2. Whorwell PJ, et al. Efficiency of an encapsulated probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol, 2006; 101(7): 1581-90.
3. Kim HJ, et al. A randomized controlled trial of probiotic, VSL#3, on guy transit and symptoms in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003; 17(7) 895-904.
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