What are Probiotics anyway?


Our human gut is lined with billions and billions of good bacteria that help us absorb nutrients and keep toxins and other molecules that may hurt us out of our body. These bacteria, it is believed, come from our mothers in the process of being born as well as our diet.

Sometimes the bowel good bacteria can be disrupted usually by antibiotics which kill good and bad bacteria. When the good bacteria are killed off, bad bacteria such as C difficile, can take over. This causes severe and sometimes life threatening diarrhea. Other drugs that can disrupt the good bacteria of the colon are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and aspirin. As well as excessive alcohol use and smoking can affect negatively your good bacteria of the bowel.

Probiotics are bacteria that are helpful for you and your good bacteria in the bowel. Probiotics can be found in yogurt and fermented dairy beverages such as kefir, sauerkraut, milk, some cheeses, miso, tempeh. When looking at yogurts, make sure that there are living organisms in the yogurt and that it has not been pasteurized. They can also be found in over the counter supplements.

The different types of probiotic bacteria and yeast are: L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. brevis, L. casei, L. fermentum, L. helveticus, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius, L. jensenii, L. paracasei, L. reuteri, L. gasser, L. crispatusi  Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. infantis, B. longum, B. breve, B. lactis, B. animalis subsp lactis, B. adolescentis Saccharomyces boulardii, Streptococcus thermophilus . The Supplements should have high numbers of bacteria such as 3-30 billion colony forming units per pill. The supplements should be refrigerated and taken everyday. It appears that they only work when you take them since it is difficult to get them to colonize the colon, because of the large amount of normal bacteria that inhabit the normal bowel.

The benefits of probiotics are decreasing diarrhea especially induced by antibiotics. It can counteract constipation and symptoms of irritable bowel disorder. There is some evidence that they can be effective against bacterial vaginitis and vaginal yeast infections. There are very few side effects or contraindications. Bloating and bowel pain can be side effects when first taking probiotics but usually are mild and resolve. The contraindications for probiotics is severe immune deficiency which can allow the probiotic to cause an infection of the blood. This is a very rare complication of taking probiotics.