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Probiotics: Can Bacteria Be Good for You?

Clostridium Difficile, Cystoscopy, Healthy Bacteria

Can bacteria actually be good for you? Healthy bacteria, referred to as probiotics, definitely can. Certain microbes, when taken live, and in the correct amounts, have been shown to be beneficial to health. In fact, there are so many health benefits, that it would be difficult to cite them all. Probiotics have been shown to help support the immune system, which is vital in fighting off infection and disease. A healthy immune system will identify and destroy most abnormal cells. Studies being done on infants in the first six months of life, indicate that exposure to good bacteria early in life, may lower allergy risks as a child ages. Probiotics may also enhance the gastrointestinal balance of microbes enough to reduce cancer. Favorable studies have been done on rats, but additional studies are needed to confirm this effect in humans.

Many people have become increasingly aware of the beneficial effect of probiotics when taken with antibiotics. Most antibiotics upset the delicate balance of microorganisms in the body, killing many of the good bacteria, along with the bad. This results in abnormal flora in the intestines, which may lead to diarrhea. Probiotics can help prevent this type of intestinal upset. Some physicians suggest taking a probiotic, during the course of prescribed antibiotics, and for several days afterward. Others feel that in order to eradicate the bad bacteria, and to build up the healthy bacteria, probiotics should be taken for a period of six months after an antibiotic regimen.

Many women have found the good bacteria to be very effective in preventing yeast infections. Probiotics have also been useful in the prevention of relapses of Clostridium Difficile, a dangerous and sometimes deadly colitis, caused by antibiotic overuse. Common traveler’s diarrhea may be inhibited by certain types of good bacteria. Studies are also being done to see if probiotics may be helpful in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease.

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Other benefits have been found during research. Studies have shown that those with mildly elevated high blood pressure responded well to certain types of fermented milk and Lactobacillus. Children aged 3-4 experienced a reduced amount of cavities when given milk with a certain type of healthy bacteria. Acidophilus and other good bacteria have been shown to prevent vaginosis and contribute to vaginal health.

Probiotics are also thought to prevent growth of unhealthy bacteria by “crowding it out”, according to Evan Fleischmann, a New Jersey naturopathic doctor. On a personal note, I can testify to the miraculous benefits of healthy bacteria. Recently, I experienced a persistent Urinary Tract Infection, which did not respond to 5 rounds of antibiotics. Exasperated, and as a last resort, my doctor tried the unconventional method of prescribing 2 probiotics. The first was Culturelle with Lactobacillus GG, and the second one was Saccharomyces Boulardi. I took the Culturelle twice a day, and the Saccharomyces once a day. By the next doctor’s visit, the urinary tract infection was gone! I had endured all those antibiotics, and several unpleasant cystoscopy procedures with no positive results. The doctor said that she once had a similar problem, and her doctor prescribed probiotics, and they worked. Her theory was, “If enough of the good guys take over, the bad guys have to leave.” (Thankfully, it certainly was true in my case. )

Probiotics are available in many forms, including supplements, yogurt, cheese, and newer products such as juices, soy drinks, and even chocolate bars. It is imperative, however, that the products have adequate numbers of the good microorganisms, and that they are stored properly. Some require refrigeration. Many of the yogurt brands, available in the grocery stores, will have written on the label, “contains active cultures.” Various ailments respond to different strains and doses of good bacteria, and further research is needed in this area.

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Don’t be shocked if your doctor is not familiar with probiotics. Many are, but others will never suggest that you add healthy bacteria to your next course of antibiotics. So along with the probiotics, you need to be proactive. Develop a healthy appetite for good bacteria, and your body will reward you in a myriad of ways!

Sources: http://www.usprobiotics.org/