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THE BASICS: Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer multiple health benefits. Prebiotics are any nutrient that feeds these microorganisms-in other words, prebiotics are food for probiotics.
ALIAS: There are many different strains of probiotics, including Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum).
HOW PROBIOTICS WORK:
Probiotics help maintain the body’s intestinal flora balance by controlling the growth of bad bacteria.
Digestion & Immunity.Probiotics are essential for supporting proper digestion and overall digestive health. They also play a key role in keeping your immune system strong.
Autism. Increasingly, scientists are seeing a powerful link between bacteria and autistic tendencies in children. Autistic children appear to have an unhealthy balance of good-to-bad bacteria.
Inflammation. Some research has shown a positive link between probiotic supplements and the reduction of chronic, low-grade inflammation, as well as improvement among those with autoimmune disorders. For example, a small pilot study using L. acidophilus CL1285 and L. casei LBC80R demonstrated benefits for patients with active eczema.
Bacterial Infections.Certain probiotic strains have been shown in studies to help prevent C. difficile infections (an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” that can cause diarrhea and mild abdominal cramping and tenderness). A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an alarming increase in episodes of C. difficile in hospitals. You can also get C. difficile after taking antibiotics.
Studies have shown that L. Acidophilus CL1285 can neutralize pathogenic bacteria (including E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and MRSA), improve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea (AAD). It has also been shown to resist stomach acid and to protect intestinal cells from bacterial toxins.
L. Acidophilus CL1285 is one of the only probiotics in which studies have been done on the actual finished supplement product-not just the strain of bacteria. More and more experts agree that this is key in determining effectiveness because when you change the bacteria’s environment by adding it to a supplement formula, it may also change its behavior and productivity.
HEADS UP: Probiotics and yogurt are not synonymous. Yogurt cultures are very different from probiotic cultures. Probiotic bacteria can sometimes be added to yogurt, but the strains are often not specified. Also, the number of live probiotic bacteria in yogurt isn’t guaranteed for the shelf life of the product.
In the end, remember that every probiotic-fortified food and probiotic supplement formulation is different. Ultimately, it’s important to follow the science and look for products supported by published clinical studies.
WHAT SHOULD YOU TAKE: Look for high bacterial content or colony forming units (CFUs)-at least 5 billion CFUs or more-and check for guaranteed potency and expiration dates. Also, products with published clinical studies indicate a higher-quality product with proven efficacy. Follow label instructions for dosage guidelines.
Research has confirmed that antibiotics can severely disrupt bacterial balance, which can lead to a wide range of side effects including:
- Soft stools or diarrhea
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramping
- Vaginal itching or discharge
- Vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis
- Disrupted intestinal balance
Rare but serious side effects can include:
- Kidney stones
- Abnormal blood clotting
- Sun sensitivity
- Blood disorders
Be sure to take a probiotic supplement daily before, during, and after antibiotic use. -Karolyn A. Gazella
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