Is a Probiotic Right for You?

Your body is home to both good and bad bacteria and you can find them pretty much everywhere — the mouth, gut and skin. Probiotics may help improve immune function, protect against hostile bacteria to prevent infection, and improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.

Under normal conditions, good bacteria in the gut outnumber the bad. Probiotics act as good bacteria that create a physical barrier against bad bacteria. Probiotics can also help offset the bacterial imbalance caused by taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the harmful ones, often leading to gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Probiotics may help breakdown protein and fat in the digestive tract — a valuable benefit to help infants, toddlers or patients who need to build strength throughout and after an illness.

Different strains of the bacteria have different effects. One strain may fight against cavity-causing organisms in your mouth and don't need to survive a trip through your gut. Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of:

  • diarrhea
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)
  • vaginal infections
  • urinary tract infections
  • recurrence of bladder cancer
  • infection of the digestive tract
  • pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)
  • eczema in children

Fermented or cultured dairy products are a major source of probiotics found in your diet. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements in capsule, tablet or powder-form. Common strains of probiotics include:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus gasseri
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Saccharomyces boulardii

Keep in mind that in order for a yogurt to be considered probiotic, it must contain one of the strains listed above. All yogurts are required to be treated with the strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Food marketers have found a new niche with probiotic-containing foods, which include:

  • cereal
  • granola bars
  • soy milk
  • cottage cheese
  • sour cream
  • infant formula

There is a potential for health benefits to eating foods with probiotics. The natural microflora balance can be upset by medications, alcohol consumption, or poor dietary intake. Probiotics have broad GI and immune benefits, including increasing  the  population of healthy bacteria following microflora imbalance; supporting healthy bowel function; increasing energy to the cells of the intestinal lining;  strengthening the gut-immune barrier by promoting a healthy gut mucosa; aiding in the digestion of difficult-to-breakdown compounds; and enhancing detoxification of harmful compounds.

Speak to your Whaley’s pharmacist today to see if a probiotic may be right for you!