I know what you are thinking, bacteria = dirt, disease, death. For centuries bacterial infections were a major cause of infant and child mortality. But then we improved hygiene, came up with better infection treatments with antibiotics and discovered some wonderful vaccinations. But don’t be fooled, not all bacteria are bad. Probiotics are substances that promote the growth of beneficial micro organisms or bacteria in the body. And this is important because we are healthiest when our internal ecosystem is healthy.
Your digestive tract is home to over 100 trillion bacteria, 400-500 different types of bacteria weighing around 4 pounds. But these are 4 pounds you don’t want to lose. Your mouth, stomach and intestines are in direct contact with the outside world through the foods we eat. Your digestive tract forms the front lines of immune defense, nutrient absorption and gastrointestinal wellness. Beneficial bacteria change the intestinal environment keeping bad bacteria from taking over which in turn prevents disease. Good bacteria help us digest our food; produce vitamins; stimulate production of antibodies in your blood; strengthen your immune system; improve nutrient absorption and produce natural antibiotics.
Bifidobacterium a probiotic can help with gastro-intestinal problems, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence. Lactobacillus is also a probiotic that boosts your immune system. You can obtain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus by adding yogurt, fermented milks and cottage cheese to your diet. You must make sure that the products you choose are “active-culture” check the label. A few yogurt products I have found are DanActive, Activa, Horizon Organics, and Rachel’s Wickedly Delicious Yogurt. Or you can go the route of supplements look for products that say NutraFlora FOS.
This is an emerging market as scientists continue to learn more about beneficial bacteria so more products will be coming down the road. Experts say that all of us may benefit from a daily dose of probiotics. Friendly bacteria are destroyed by: antibiotics (They wipe out the good and the bad. That is why taking antibiotics often causes diarrhea); chlorinated water (drinking and swimming); eating processed foods; eating foods high in sugar; drinking alcohol; steroids; antacids; laxatives; and birth control pills. So limit the use of these. You want to keep those good bacteria around!