Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that promote good digestive and immune health. Literally translated, probiotic means “for life”. Having a vital and well-balanced population of these microorganisms in our digestive tract is essential for optimal health.
Probiotics have several important functions which include synthesizing nutrients such as vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting, aiding in digestion and proper elimination, enhancing immune function, supporting detoxification and optimizing hormone metabolism.
Our gut flora can be damaged by antibiotic therapy as well as steroidal drugs including cortisone, spermicides, stress, birth control pills, a diet containing excess sugars or alcohol, and certain herbs such as oregano oil.
What’s the Big Deal?
Problems related to altered gut flora include digestive issues like bloating, gas, irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as eczema, altered mood, allergies, and bladder infections. Imbalanced flora can also lead to an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans, creating symptoms beyond the gut including headaches, foggy thinking and yeast infections
Research studies have shown that supplemental probiotics support healthy immune function and can even decrease symptoms and duration of colds and “flus”. It has also been found that mom and infant supplementation with probiotics can result in a decreased occurrence of eczema and allergies in childhood.
How to Choose the Right Probiotics
An increasing number of food products claim to contain probiotics, and while some do, they are unregulated, and many contain negligible or sub-therapeutic amounts. Because of this, supplements are the most reliable way to get probiotics.
While there are 400 – 500 different bacterial species found in the large intestine alone, there are a handful that should predominate, most commonly Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium species. These are the species found in the majority of probiotic supplements. As specific formulations, dosing and potencies vary with particular health conditions, ask a naturopathic doctor to recommend the best supplement to optimize your health.
Remember, if your gut is not happy, your body is not happy!
Dr. Lesley D’Souza, ND began her studies at the University of Toronto, obtaining a Bachelors of Science in Human Biology with a minor in psychology. She then received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario which is an accredited four-year, intensive post-graduate naturopathic medical program. As part of her studies, Dr. Lesley completed a twelve-month internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, the largest naturopathic clinic in North America. http://www.drlesleynd.com