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Healing Benefits of Probiotics

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

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February 9, 2016 at 1:00 PM

yes_wellnes_probiotics_webinar.jpgProbiotics are certainly not newcomers to the health care industry.  Probiotics are microorganisms; usually bacteria or yeasts that can be found in different foods and health supplements.  The known health benefits of probiotics are mostly to do with the digestive system. Commonly found in fermented foods with active live bacterial cultures (such as yogurt), Probiotics are also available as supplements in the form of both liquid and chewable capsules. 

Knowing that your body is full of healthy bacteria can help you understand the health benefits of probiotics.  Over the past 20 years, research has uncovered a lot positive health benefits from the use of probiotics.  Still, this research is in its relative infancy, so the exact way that probiotics work and all their health applications are still not entirely understood.  Some research suggests that probiotics help to restore and maintain healthy bacteria levels in your digestive system while also promoting a balance between good and bad bacteria so you can achieve optimal health.

Types of Probiotics

There are many different types of bacteria that are known as probiotics, and each one of these types has different health effects.  The majority of probiotics can be classified as either Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.

Lactobacillus has been shown to help with gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and can be found in yogurt as well as fermented foods.  The digestive effects of lactobacillus may explain why people who are lactose intolerant can often eat yogurt without unfortunate side effects.

Bifidobacterium is found in dairy products as well, and research suggests it may relieve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions.

Why Probiotics?

Essentially, probiotics are not entirely understood, but it is theorized that they help digestion by moving food through your digestive system.  The most common conditions that benefit from taking probiotic supplements include irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea caused by infections (viral, bacterial, or parasitic), and diarrhea caused by antibiotics.

Early research is also showing promising results for probiotic supplements in treating eczema and allergies.  Probiotics may also support vaginal and urinary health as well as oral health.

Still, some of the most exciting research on probiotics are on their application in weight management programs.  Concerning weight and fat loss, daily probiotic supplementation has been associated with significant improvements in weight and fat reduction.  A short study out of Japan also found some measures of liver function in individuals taking probiotic supplements showed metabolic benefits as well.

Similarly, a study by researchers at Laval University in Quebec found that female participants who followed a program that included 12 weeks on a weight-reduction diet followed by 12 weeks on a weight maintenance diet lost significantly more weight during both periods of the program when they were also taking a daily probiotic supplement.

How to Use Probiotics

Fortunately, probiotics are readily available in many common supermarket foods, but they can also be purchased as health supplements.  Probiotic supplements are safe for most people, though if you are immune compromised or suffer other health conditions, you should consult with your physician before adding probiotics to your diet. 

If you’re confident that probiotics will make an excellent addition to your diet, there are some factors to consider.  First of all, knowing what kind and how much of a probiotic is appropriate is still unclear.  Weight management research about probiotics has utilized varying doses.  In one study, participants were given supplements with 100 billion cells of Lactobacillus; while in another study, participants received capsules with 50 billion cells of Bifidobacterium. 

Secondly, even if probiotic supplementation only improves your weight management program moderately, there are a broad range of other probiotic health benefits.  Indeed, probiotics can certainly help you maintain a healthy digestive system.

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Topics: Diet, Nutrition, Wellness, Allergies

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