Blog | Friday, February 6, 2015

Probiotics actually work

Probiotics are live bacteria and eating or drinking them can have a profound beneficial effect on your health. Before you say “ewww,” let's look at the science and why the right bacteria is essential for our well-being.

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with millions of microbes known as microbiota. Your microbiota is specific only to you and was started at birth when you acquired the bacteria from your mother. Over the years it continued to evolve depending upon your gender, geography, health, and diet. If you took antibiotics, it probably knocked out your good intestinal microbial environment for at least a month. Some strong antibiotics affect the gut for up to 4 years.

Probiotics are bacteria found in foods, and a number of digestive illnesses are helped by taking them. They prevent the growth of bad bacteria, they lower intestinal pH (thereby preventing bad bacterial growth) and they increase the production of mucin, which acts as a blockade and prevents bacteria from adhering to the intestinal wall.

Here are some ways probiotics can help:

• can reduce crying time in breastfed babies with colic,

• can prevent traveler's diarrhea,

• can help with infectious diarrhea symptoms,

• can reduce the risk of antibiotic associated diarrhea,

• can reduce diarrhea in patients receiving pelvic radiation,

• can reduce atopic eczema and asthma in children, and

• can improve atopic dermatitis in adults.

But all probiotics are not the same and different strains and strengths exist. They are alive so it is important to know the manufacturer and what bacteria it contains. Here are some brands I recommend and Whole Foods Market also carries fresh yoghurt and dairy products that are filled with good probiotics.
DanActive or Florastor: Good to take along with antibiotics (if you MUST take an antibiotic) to prevent diarrhea in 60% of cases. Start it with the antibiotic and continue for at least a week afterward. Take it 2 hours apart from the antibiotic dose.
Activa: 1-2 servings a day for two weeks can help regulate the digestive system
Culturelle: 2 capsules a day treat infectious diarrhea and can be taken during a trip
Align: Good for IBS symptoms of pain, bloating and flatulence. 1 capsule a day

Remember, your GI tract should be in perfect homeostasis with your natural microbiome if you eat healthy. If it gets thrown off, restoring the bacteria with probiotics can help.

Read more about your microbiome here!

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.