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Trust Your Gut!

By Carol Bond, Your Health

04/23/2007- Prebiotics and Probiotics Are Friendly Flora Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases are responsible for approximately 30 percent of cancer-related deaths, $17 billion in direct healthcare costs and 10 percent of the total days that adults are ill in this country(1). With an estimated 20 million people in the United States afflicted with GI aliments, there is a nation-wide need to bust our gut problem.

The natural product industry offers a promising way to flush GI issues down the toilet using pre and probiotics. In fact, this market has surged in popularity and offerings. By the end of 2007, 150 probiotic and prebiotic commercial food products were introduced to the United States, and sales of probiotic-containing foods and supplements are projected to reach $1 billion by 2010 (1), (2).

Why Probiotics?

Probiotics are the "friendly bacteria" already present in your gut that perform a wide variety of functions throughout the body, including modulating the immune system, strengthening the body's natural defenses and improving overall urinary-genital health(3). According to enzyme expert Tom Bohager, "The beneficial micro-flora protects against the overgrowth of pathogenic organisms, assists in the digestion of fiber and lactose while producing enzymes and manufacturing B vitamins(4)." Therefore, probiotics serve the duel purpose of balancing pH levels in the colon while resisting bile and acids(5). When probiotics and prebiotics are combined, they have a symbiotic relationship that may alleviate symptoms associated with GI-related illnesses and enzyme deficiency(4).

Prebiotics: Functional Foods

A healthy colon translates to a healthy liver and bloodstream. Probiotics are nature's defense against carcinogens in the colon and these friendly bacteria are assisted by prebiotics(6). Prebiotics are the functional food complement of probiotics, aiding in the system function of the gut. Prebiotics, the soluble fibers found in many natural foods such as artichokes, barley, beans, legumes, eggplant, garlic, onions, peas and grains, are often isolated from plants and synthesized (such as FOS), supplementing healthy gut flora(7).

Are Probiotics Right for You?

IBS. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately 55 million Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If ignored, IBS can mimic more severe conditions such as colon cancer(6). Symptoms of IBS include lactose intolerance and diarrhea. According to probiotic specialist Natasha Trenev, powdered supplementation of Lactobacillus once daily before meals with water may gradually decrease the painful symptoms associated with lactose intolerance since small dosages should not cause trauma to the system(7). It is suggested that probiotic supplementation for IBS be accompanied separately by a multi-enzyme supplement containing a combination of protease, amylase and lipase enzymes. Individuals with IBS are advised to enjoy high-fiber foods such as organic vegetables and whole grains(6).

A study conducted in 2003 suggested that supplementation of lactobacillus may reduce the risk of infectious diarrhea lasting for more than three days. In a trial involving 300 children, researchers noticed a 24.8-hour reduction in the duration of diarrhea. This experiment suggests that lactobacillus may decrease the time and severity of infectious diarrhea(8).

High Cholesterol. Although some cholesterol is necessary for production of sex and adrenal hormones, an excess of cholesterol in the body may lead to dire coronary complications such as heart disease(9). Recent studies conducted at the Shinshu University in Japan found that lactobacillus bacteria can suppress the reabsorption of bile acids carrying cholesterol to the liver by improving the removal of cholesterol from the blood through stool excretion(10).

Candidiasis. Use of antibiotics coupled with nutrient deficiencies may alter bowel flora contributing to an overgrowth of Candida. In excess, this fungus causes a weakening of the immune system accompanied by a wide host of symptoms including vaginitis, depression, congestion and acne. Lactobacillus may help alleviate symptoms associated with fungal overgrowth by preventing the absorption of antigens into the intestine(6). The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recorded a study conducted on 444 women infected with vaginitis. Subjects were supplemented with lactobacilli. The study revealed that 92 percent experienced an alleviation of symptoms and remained infection-free up to a year later(1). Probiotics may also prove beneficial for those who suffer from candidiasis since they potentially improve the intestine's bacterial environment, thereby suppressing yeast overgrowth(5).

Weight Loss. Due to probiotic's natural ability to aid the metabolization of bile acids, they may be able to promote fat absorption in the gut and weight control. Researchers at Imperial College in London observed that effects of probiotics on human gut microbes in mice and found that probiotics had a whole range of biochemical effects on the microbes that may play an important role in metabolism, thereby naturally aiding weight loss(11).

Do Your Homework

Prebiotics and probiotics are more convenient than ever. They can be found in foods, beverages, powder and pill form. These bacteria are also found in supplements, yogurt, miso and tempeh as well as some natural juices and soy beverages. However, before taking a prebiotic or probiotic, shoppers should find out which supplement suits their specific physical need. And, always consult your physician before altering your healthcare regimen with a prebiotic or probiotic(9).

References,

1. G. Weber, Protecting Your Health With Probiotics, (IMPAKT Communications, Green Bay, WI, 2001).

2. "Growing Trend In Many Food Bowls Near You: Friendly Bacteria," Star Ledger, Newark, NJ, Dec. 10, 2007, p 3.

3. Jarrow Formulas, http://jarrowprobiotics.com

4. NCCAM, National Institutes of Health, "Getting To Know Friendly Bacteria," CAM at the NIH, 8 (2), (2006).

5. T. Bohanger, Enzymes: What The Experts Know, (One World Press, Prescott, AZ, 2006).

6. J. Taylor, et al., The Wonder of Probiotics, (St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2007).

7. International Food Information Council, "Functional Foods Fact Sheet: Probiotics and Prebiotics," (Washington, D.C., June, 2006).

8. D. Swift, "Probiotics Look Promising in Diarrhea, Pouchitis," CTC Communications: Gastroenterology Canada, (2003).

9. N. Trenev, Probiotics: Nature's Internal Healers, (Avery Publishing Group, Garden City Park, NY, 1998).

10. A. Vojdani, "Cholesterol: How To Lower It-The Safe Way," (Probiotics New Zealand, 2001).

11. "Probiotics May Help Fight Weight Gain," www.saga.co.uk

12. M. Majeed, et al., Lactospore, (NutraScience Publishers, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, 1998).

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