Sunday, October 17, 2010

Health Benefits of Probiotics

 Home-made sauerkraut

In the past when antibiotics were first introduced into our world, most people had a very vague idea about bacteria in general. Most didn't recognize the extreme importance of the friendly bacteria living in our own bodies. The term "bacteria" was more often than not used to describe something harmful, something that could cause a disease.

Now people are becoming more and more aware of the fact that there are also beneficial bacteria without which life would not be possible. It is actually the friendly, life-sustaining bacteria which live inside our bodies and on our skin that keep our bodies functioning and thriving. Without them we would not be able to exist. They not only keep the bad bacteria in check, but have many other health-sustaining functions.

Our bodies are designed to function best with millions of friendly probiotic bacteria living in our intestinal tract and on our skins. There are more than four hundred different bacteria living in the human gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of intestinal probiotics are L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum.

In the past, we constantly replaced the probiotics in our system by eating organic vegetables grown in soil that was rich in soil-based organisms or by consuming raw milk products. Today we need to supplement as almost all milk products on the market are made of homogenized, pasteurized milk and most vegetable grow in depleted soil.

Our digestive systems especially rely heavily on friendly probiotic bacteria to aid in digestion and assimilation of our food. Hydrocarbons are broken down by probiotic bacteria which means that the food is being split into its most basic elements. This allows almost total absorption through the digestive system. In this way probiotics dramatically increase overall nutrition and enhance rapid cellular growth and development.

Probiotics not only aid digestion, but also help clean the digestive tract and reduce inflammation in the colon. Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation are safely relieved by probiotics. The bowel movements become normalized.

Studies have shown that probiotics, especially acidophilus, promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and reduce the conversion of bile into carcinogens or cancer-causing substances.

Probiotics also stimulate the production of many important enzymes such as the lactose digesting enzyme lactase, and increase the availability of vitamins especially Vitamin B, Vitamin K, and nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and fatty acids.
The friendly bacteria also stimulate B-Lymphocyte and related anti-body production. They produce huge pools of extra anti-bodies, ready to protect and defend against infection. They not only stimulates the immune system thus helping the organism fight off acute infections but also help alleviate allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome and systemic candida.

Probiotics may also be useful in maintaining urogenital health. Like the intestinal tract, the vagina is a finely balanced ecosystem. The dominant lactobacilli strains normally make the vagina too acidic for harmful microorganisms to survive there. But this finely tuned system can be thrown out of balance by a number of factors, including extreme stress, antibiotics, spermicides, and birth control pills. Probiotic treatment may help restore the equilibrium and alleviate such common female urogenital problems as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and urinary tract infections.

There are many probiotic products on the market now and they vary in quality and efficacy. In order to be effective, the bacteria in these supplements must be "alive" and active and able to reach the intestines unaffected by the stomach acid. The supplements must be sugar or glucose free as both, sugar and glucose, actually slow down the growth of lactobacilli. Very few supplements are actually viable.

The best way to deliver the healthy bacteria to the system is to acquire them through cultured foods where they are still actively involved in the fermentation process. Because the probiotics are in a food-based medium, the body can easily recognize and absorb them. Also, the food itself very easy to digest because it has been "predigested" by the friendly bacteria and is therefore an instant source of nutrients and life sustaining energy.

Cultured foods include kefir and yogurt made from organic raw milk, homemade sauerkraut and kimchi, unpasteurized miso paste, traditionally brewed unpasteurized kombucha, unpasteurized vinegars such as apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar. People on a vegan diet may enjoy coconut or nut and seed based yogurts and cheeses made with controlled ferments.

Many common organically grown leafy green vegetable are also excellent sources of probiotics. The best green supplements for increasing probiotics include spirulina, chlorella, barley and wheat grass. The advantage of getting these disease-fighting bacteria from green sources is that these foods are also very high in other nutrients such a s the immune system-stimulating vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They also help to alkalize and detoxify the body.

Because stress, unhealthy lifestyles, unhealthy acidic diets, and most importantly, over-medication with antibiotics, deplete probiotics naturally occurring in our bodies, it is vital to add probiotics to our diet. Probiotics must be used to re-populate intestines with the healthy bacteria after intensive treatment with antibiotics, radiation or chemotherapy.

Although it is easier to take a capsule or two, enriching your diet with naturally fermented foods is probably more effective and fun.

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Benefits of Probiotics by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.