The Proven Benefits of Probiotics

The Proven Benefits of Probiotics

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Probiotics are well known as beneficial for the gastrointestinal tract, where they maintain a balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. Namely, the gastrointestinal tract is populated with millions of bacteria. When those bacteria are mainly good, then our organism responds better to inflammations and infections. However, if this natural flora’s balance becomes disturbed with antibiotic consumption or irregular diet, then taking foods rich in probiotics can be beneficial to our overall health. A top food that contains a lot of probiotics is yogurt. But, to help the probiotics maintain their stability and keep our gastrointestinal flora at its optimum, we should reach for foods full of prebiotics. To remove confusion between the roles of probiotics and prebiotics in our gastrointestinal tract, nutritionists explain that probiotics are, in fact, ‘good’ bacteria. On the other hand, prebiotics are carbohydrates that our bodies cannot digest, but they are necessary for feeding good bacteria. Thus, the both of them are necessary and inseparable when trying to keep our gastrointestinal flora in a good balance. Before we consider what foods are rich in probiotics and prebiotics, let us understand the proven benefits of probiotics on our organisms, which are described in the article “Probiotics Side Effects, Probiotics Benefits”.

The Proven Benefits of Probiotics

Scientific understanding of probiotics and their potential for preventing and treating health conditions is at an early
stage, but moving ahead. In November 2005, a conference that was cofunded by the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and convened by the American Society for Microbiology
explored this topic.

According to the conference report, some uses of probiotics for which there is some encouraging evidence from the
study of specific probiotic formulations are as follows:

* To treat diarrhea (this is the strongest area of evidence, especially for diarrhea from rotavirus)
* To prevent and treat infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
* To treat irritable bowel syndrome
* To reduce recurrence of bladder cancer
* To shorten how long an intestinal infection lasts that is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium difficile
* To prevent and treat pouchitis (a condition that can follow surgery to remove the colon)
* To prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children

The conference panel also noted that in studies of probiotics as cures, any beneficial effect was usually low; a
strong placebo effect often occurs; and more research (especially in the form of large, carefully designed clinical
trials) is needed in order to draw firmer conclusions.

The foods that have a lot of probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheese, dark chocolate, pickles, and kombucha tea. Furthermore, the foods rich in prebiotics are bananas, artichokes, whole grains, onions, oatmeals, garlic, asparagus, legumes, and honey. Apart from the good bacteria, yogurt has a lot of calcium and proteins. Although there is not huge scientific evidence on the role of probiotics in lowering LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, some studies suggest that it might affect the LDL cholesterol level in a beneficial way. Moreover, many dieticians and biochemists speak about the positive effects of probiotic bacteria on our hair, skin, bones, as well as on arthritis, and other illnesses. But, for additional scientific evidence we should wait.

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