Taking Probiotics Like a Pro

Disease, illness, even death, they can all be caused by the spread of bad bacteria. But there are billions of other kinds that could do your body a lot of good.

Adam Jonas has colitis, "you basically feel like you need to go to the bathroom 10, 15 times a day," Jonas told Ivanhoe.  "So it's pretty nasty. It's not a comfortable thing to be dealing with."

To help with his gut problem, he takes a capsule full of bacteria every day.

"It's new to hear doctors prescribing bacteria," Gregory Plotnikoff, MD, Senior Consultant at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, told Ivanhoe.  "They're friendly bacteria, beneficial bacteria."

Called probiotics, they can be found in yogurt. The doctor says they help the body produce vitamins, pain relieving substances, and can improve digestion.

Sleep problems, surgery, stress, even antibiotics hurt the balance of good bacteria in your belly.

"40 million Americans suffer from chronic gut distress," Dr. Plotnikoff said.  "Simply taking probiotics can help a large number of people."

They're helpful for most, but critically ill patients with immune system problems should steer clear of probiotics. Also, the FDA doesn't regulate probiotics for over the counter use.

If you take them, the doctor says make sure they have at least 20 billion colony forming units or CFUs per capsule. And only wash them down with filtered or bottled water.

"City water has chlorine in it to get rid of bacteria," Dr. Plotnikoff explained.

Heat can also kill probiotics, so avoid coffee, tea or hot foods for at least 30 minutes before or after taking one.

After taking probiotics for a while now, Adam Jonas has experienced their benefits.  "I would say I'm normal now," he said.

Probiotics are available over the counter and the doctor says a two month supply runs about $40 to $50.

BACKGROUND: Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines camera. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt with live cultures, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements. (SOURCE: http://www.webmd.com)

WHAT FOODS CONTAIN PROBIOTICS? Fermented dairy products have been advertised as containing "beneficial cultures." These cultures are what would now be considered probiotics. Other foods currently claiming to provide probiotics are cereal, juice, frozen yogurt, granola, candy bars, and cookies. (SOURCE: http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics)

SIDE EFFECTS OF PROBIOTICS: Side effects are rare. Most people do not experience any, or they may have a mild gastrointestinal side effect, such as gas, but there have been some case reports of serious adverse effects, and research on safety is ongoing. Concerns have also been raised about the quality of probiotic products. Some products have been found to contain smaller numbers of live microorganisms than expected. In addition, some products have been found to contain bacterial strains other than those listed as ingredients. (SOURCE: http://nccam.nih.gov/health)

BENEFITS: Although more research is needed, there's encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:

 Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
 Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
 Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
 Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
 Prevent and treat eczema in children
 Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
(SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com

For More Information, Contact:

Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP
Senior Consultant
Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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