Probiotics are beneficial microbes that live in our intestines. Coming from the Greek, meaning “for life”, the term probiotic was likely coined as a witty response to the word antibiotic.
The therapeutic use of probiotics began when the benefits of “probiotic therapy” after a course of antibiotic therapy was recognized. Many people mistakenly believe this is the only use of probiotic supplements. Probiotics have many functions in our bodies.
Maintaining digestive health
High quality probiotic supplements can bring the bowels back into balance and keep them there. This can offset the disturbing effects that dietary, environmental, and emotional stresses can create in the digestive tract..
The two most common types of probiotic supplements are Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium (as B. bifidum and B .longum). Both kinds can be found throughout the digestive tract, and both produce acid substances such as lactic acid. The acids produced by the probiotics help maintain the correct intestinal pH and inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. The key to the effectiveness of probiotics as intestinal monitors is their amazing capacity to secrete numerous substances that kill pathogenic bacteria.
Acidophilus, with its many strains, is the most widely known probiotic. Scientific research has demonstrated that this probiotic plays an especially beneficial role in the digestive process, producing enzymes that ensure the availability of nutrients. Its production of lactic acid enhances the utilization of essential minerals (calcium, phosphorus, iron, etc.) and suppresses detrimental bacteria such as Salmonella (food poisoning), Shigella (diarrhea), and E. coli (intestinal disease and kidney failure). Acidophilus has also been reported to produce sufficient hydrogen peroxide to inhibit the growth of candida. In addition, acidophilus reportedly alleviates lactose intolerance, inhibits carcinogenic activity in the bowels, and improves the amount of nutrition we receive from our food.
On the other hand, the lesser known bifidobacteria are the predominant organisms. Many people who do not respond to acidophilus react positively to bitidus. This bacteria first implants in infancy and is found in humans throughout life.
Bitidus shares many of the benefits of acidophilus, including the production of lactic acid. However, bifidobacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These important acids have a wide range of antimicrobial activity against yeasts and molds as well as against unhealthy bacteria. Additionally, SCFAs increase blood flow in the colon, stimulate pancreatic enzyme secretion, promote sodium and water absorption, and support the growth of intestinal mucosal cells. Studies have shown that colonic absorption of SCFAs may supply up to 10 percent of our daily energy requirement.
Bifidus delivers even further benefits. One unique job is inhibiting the growth of bacteria that can alter nitrates in the intestine into potentially carcinogenic nitrites
It also provides a healthy environment for the synthesis of some B vitamins and vitamin K. Bitidus microorganisms destroy the pathogens that cause vaginal yeast infections. In addition, bifidus is known to improve bowel function by aiding movement (peristalsis) and producing a softer, smoother stool. Further, bifidus has proven useful in the treatment of cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.
Since bifidus competes with pathogenic bacteria and yeasts for both nutrients and attachment sites, it is especially important to support your intestines with supplementation.
Besides the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, other beneficial bacteria include L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. salivarius, L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, B. breve, Enterococcus faecium, Saccharomyces houlardii, and L. sporogene. The latter is a unique strain of lactobacillus which occurs as spores. This means it resists the actions of stomach acid and antibiotics. Sporogenesis non-dairy and is derived from malt.
(Continued next week)