Are Probiotics Necessary? | Chiropractor Mechanicsville VA

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Are Probiotics Necessary?

We all know that bacteria can cause disease, so it makes sense to be at least a little leery about taking a supplement that is loaded with bacteria.  There is however, a growing volume of scientific support that probiotics (PBs) can both treat as well as prevent quite a few illnesses.

Probiotics literally means “for life” (pro biota), which suggests these must be “good” bacteria and indeed, our digestive system’s health depends on maintaining a balance between the good and bad flora.  Since the 1990s, clinical studies have shown that PBs can effectively treat a number of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), (continue reading below)

ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, H. pylori (causes ulcers), bladder cancer recurrence, C-Diff (Clostridium difficile)–a dangerous gut infection associated with antibiotics, pouchitis (post-surgical complication after colon removal), eczema in children, and more.

Probiotics are not all the same, as different strains of bacteria have different functions and therefore, help us in different ways.  For example, some organisms protect our teeth from getting cavities but can’t survive in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.

Solid evidence exists for probiotic therapy in the treatment of diarrhea.  Lactobacillus GG can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in infants and children (but not adults).  The Harvard.edu website describes two large review studies that suggest PBs can reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 60% when compared with a placebo.

Vaginal health is also improved by PB use, as it can reduce and/or eliminate recurring yeast infections.  Lactobacilli can help treat bacterial vaginosis, which can potentially complicate pregnancies and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).  This bacteria can also be used to treat UTIs, especially in women.

Probiotics may also help decrease allergic inflammation, treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and fight immune deficiency diseases.  Ingesting probiotics can improve calcium absorption and bone calcium accretion to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.  They may even have a role in the management of obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Most probiotics are oligosaccharides and can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources including asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beets, sugarcane juice, tomato, and wheat.  Foods rich in probiotics include kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sweet acidophilus milk, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, aged soft cheese, and more.

Some probiotics include an ingredient called a “prebiotic”.  This is a non-digestible carbohydrate that acts as food for both the probiotic and the good bacteria already residing in the gut.  Prebiotic stimulates the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of  genus/species in the gut, making the probiotic more effective and longer lasting.

Here are some of the various types of probiotics. . .

  1. Lactobacillus naturally occur in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems and can treat a wide variety of diseases and conditions.
  2. Bifidobacteria are found mostly in the colon.  They help improve blood lipids and glucose tolerance and can alleviate IBS and IBS-like conditions such as pain, bloating, and urgency.
  3. Saccaromyces boulardii is the only yeast probiotic.  It’s used to treat C-Diff (an antibiotic complication), traveler’s diarrhea, acne, and more.
  4. Streptococcus thermophilus helps prevent lactose intolerance.
  5. Enterococcus faecium supports the intestinal tract.

Are there side effects?  Generally, side effects are rare and if they occur, they tend to be mild and usually relate to the digestive system and include symptoms such as gas or feeling bloated.

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Dr. Dana Williamson is a chiropractor who has been helping relieve back pain and neck pain of the residents of Mechanicsville, Richmond, Hanover, Henrico, and Glen Allen since 2001.

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This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all health care concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a health care professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.
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