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“Probiotics” have taken the natural health community by storm, here in the United States and even more dramatically in Europe. But what exactly are probiotics? What’s the best way to take them? And how can already-healthy people benefit by using them? Read more

 


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Pro-Body-Beautiful


Literally translated, “probiotics” means “for life.” Put simply, probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain the balance of microorganisms inside your intestinal tract.

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Over the past few years, probiotics have become something of a health craze nationwide. However, they are far from new. In Europe and Asia, probiotic champions have touted their benefits for centuries—both to prevent illness and enhance strong immune function.

 

Here are just a few of the reasons why you might want to incorporate them into your healthy lifestyle.

  • They offer a powerful bio-boost. Just as antibiotics kill bacteria (the bad ones that cause illness right along with the good ones that your body needs), probiotics are known to infuse good bacteria back into the body. That makes them a great way to rejuvenate after you complete a round of prescription antibiotics.

  • Speed up your weight loss. Research from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, found that subjects who did nothing else for weight loss besides take probiotic pills lost almost 2 percent of their waist size during the course of the study. That’s partly because probiotics clean your digestive system, making it better able to eliminate waste. In addition, they can speed up a sluggish metabolism. In fact, this is one of the best benefits to using them.

  • Want to avoid common colds and annual flu bugs? The most conclusive studies on probiotics to date reveal their remarkable ability to enhance immune system function. From young children to the elderly, those who take probiotics get sick less often and their colds last only about half as long as the average person's.

  • Relieve eczema and psoriasis with probiotic cream. That’s the finding of one study recently published in the British Journal of Dermatology. Although probiotic-infused creams are not readily available yet, the idea is definitely catching on. So look for them over the next few years, in naturopathic pharmacies and better health food stores nationwide.

  • An answer to teenage and adult acne. Dermatologists and aestheticians alike have started to recommend probiotic supplements for their patients with acne. Skin eruption of all kinds can be partly due to poor diet and improper functioning of the small intestine. By injecting new good bacteria into the small intestine, probiotics can help diminish outbreaks, particularly on your cheeks, cheekbones and along the jawline.

  • Breastfed babies benefit if their moms use probiotics.  First, studies find that if women take probiotics during the breastfeeding period, their babies develop stronger immune and intestinal function. Unrelated research indicates that, for moms with eczema, probiotics can decrease (by over 30 percent) the chances of passing on the problem to baby. Further, the British Journal of Nutrition found a lower rate of gestational diabetes in women taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy.

  • Even serious health problems may be helped by probiotics. At least that’s what emerged from research conducted at the Center for Digestive Diseases in Sydney, Australia as well as the University of Minnesota. In small case-by-case studies, patients with Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea, colitis and even multiple sclerosis saw a reversal of symptoms upon “probiotic transplant” (commonly referred to as bacteriotherapy).  

Because the power of probiotics comes from the “live” culture bacteria they carry, it is always best to consume them in their most natural state: in foods. Nevertheless, make sure labels clearly state that the products contain live culture or live bacteria.  

 

The most probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, some chocolates and Kombucha, a fermented tea. Kombucha is now a popular bottled drink available in a variety of flavors at most health food stores. [If you’re interested, learn more about Kombucha and its health benefits on our blog.]


If you opt for the convenience of a supplement, be very careful because what you read on the label may NOT be what you’ll get. In fact, researchers at Bastyr University in Washington recently tested a wide variety of probiotic supplements and found that in four out of twenty products no sign of living friendly bacteria was present.


That means it’s probably worth the money to buy the best. A good example is Bio-K, which comes in small bottles available in the refrigerated vitamin section of your local health food stores. If possible, buy probiotic supplements in refrigerated form, and keep them in your refrigerator to preserve the bacteria for as long as possible.

 

It is only fair to say that probiotics are not fully endorsed by the World Health Organization or the FDA. Instead, these public health giants stand by the 2002 claim that consumers should define probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Beyond that, both administrations have called for further evaluation on the functionality and safety of probiotics. Likewise, clinical organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School have yet to make strong claims in favor probiotic use, citing the differences between bacterial strains as a reason to be cautious about a self-directed regimen.

 

 
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Quick Takes
 

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