Probiotics Replenish Good Bacteria and Good Health

If there is one natural supplement that most doctors are recommending these days, it is a well-sourced probiotic. Research has shown that probiotics can ease digestive problems, boost immunity, reduce cholesterol levels and help with atopic eczema, allergies and asthma. Some of the most wellresearched strains are Bifidobaceterium and Lactobacillus, as well as the yeast species Saccharomyces boulardii.

Elie Metchnikoff, considered the “father of probiotics,” proposed in the early 20th century that ingesting microorganisms could benefit human health. In The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies, Metchnikoff wrote what science now knows to be true: that numerous strains of beneficial bacteria populate both the digestive tract and the skin of a healthy human being. These beneficial bacteria are believed to prevent a number of harmful microorganisms, such as Clostridium difficile and Candida albicans, from taking up residence on the skin or infecting the digestive tract. They are also believed to produce compounds that stimulate the body’s own immune response and enhance proper immune system development and maturity.

Fermented foods have long been a source of probiotics. For centuries, people have been making kefir, yogurt, saurkraut, kimchee, miso, kombucha and pickles (nonvinegar), all of which provide beneficial bacteria to the gut. Other fermented foods include sourdough bread (non-yeast), tempeh, beer, injera, mead, crème fraiche, salted fish, olives (non-vinegar) and aged cheeses. All of these items are rich in lactic acid and the Lactobacillus family of bacteria.

The advent of modern refrigeration, processed foods and environmental toxins, combined with the decreased consumption of fermented foods, has reduced the amount of beneficial probiotics in most people’s bodies. At the same time, modern medicine’s overreliance on antibiotics has caused a decrease in the growth of beneficial probiotics while increasing the resistance of harmful organisms. These factors are behind the dramatic rise in asthma, eczema and allergies, along with more serious and chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases, celiac, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, liver disease, and even some cancers.

While properly prepared fermented foods are the ideal source of probiotics, high quality supplements are a good alternative. There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing probiotic supplements from a store:

•Pick those that require refrigeration
•Get a mix of Lactobacillus (for the small intestine) and Bifidobacterium (for the colon) •Get brands that list the entire species name (e.g. the label should say Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, instead of just Lactobacillus)
•For maintenance, adults should take capsules with 10 billion organisms; children only need 3 to 5 billion organisms per serving
•S. boulardii is a useful probiotic for traveling and prevent ing traveler’s diarrhea (this one does not need to be refrigerated)
•Probiotic supplements are best taken with food Whether taken as a supplement or eaten in fermented foods, probiotics are an easy and effective way to boost overall health and immunity.

Dr. Maggie Luther operates a full-service naturopathic medicine clinic at 114 Water St., Bldg. #3 in Milford. For more information, call 617-245-0561 or email DrMaggie

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