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Why Take Probiotics? Do Probiotics Work?

I’m a skeptic when it comes to nutritional supplements. I think that if you eat healthy and varied you will get most of the essential nutrients through your food. A while ago I felt tired and washed-out all the time so I asked some advice in a nearby store. The girl that worked there seemed to know a lot about nutritional supplementation and she told me that if you exercise a lot, like I do, probiotics can help you feel fitter.

I decided to buy a probiotics supplement. (Enzymatic Therapy Acidophilus Pearls). (acidophilus is a subspecies of lactobacillus) And after using it for a while I noticed to feel a bit more energetic, or less tired actually. Something more profound I noticed is that a while ago, after I quit using the probiotics for about a week, I started to feel a cold coming up. The first time I thought this to be a coincidence but the second time I thought I was getting sick I realized, I again, hadn’t taken my Acidophilus pills for about a week. This, of course, is no hard proof probiotics help fight fatigue and boost your immune system so I did some online research.

The Possible Benefits of Probiotic Therapy

Probiotics refers to the beneficial bacteria that reside in the digestive system and gut in humans. Originally, they were thought to be beneficial by improving the microbial balance of the gut and inhibiting the growth or pathogens and bacteria that secrete toxins.

Today, probiotics are being investigated to see their connection to issues like alleviating;

  • chronic inflammatory disease of the intestine,
  • pathogen-caused diarrhea,
  • urogenital infections,
  • and atopic diseases (atopic refers to allergies, examples are hay fever, asthma, and eczema.)

The most well known probiotic bacteria include lactic-acid bacteria of the genus Lactobacillus, and bacteria from the genus Bifidobacteria. These can inhibit and displace harmful proteolytic bacteria that metabolize proteins into toxic phenols, indols, and ammonia.

Proteolytic bacteria have been linked to factors that cause old age, and studies have observed long-lives in human populations in eastern Europe and Russia who include fermented dairy products (milk and yogurt fermented with lactic-acid bacteria) in their diets.

Pioneering probiotics researcher Eli Metchnikoff discovered that certain rural peoples in Europe such as in Bulgaria, who lived mainly on milk fermented with lactic acid bacteria, lived a relatively long life.

Where are Probiotics Found?

Natural sources of probiotics include cultured and fermented foods—such as certain yogurts, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, aged cheese, and miso. These foods must have active cultures in order to be beneficial (not heated or pasteurized, which kills the bacteria). You can also take probiotics in the form of a dietary supplement

Probiotics and Fitness

The results as to whether probiotics help athletes stay fit are mixed. In one study, Australian long distance runners were given a trial that included taking capsules containing the probiotic Lactobacillus. Though the probiotic did not increase overall fitness, it did help reduce the incidence of respiratory problems, such as sore throats, coughing and sneezing.

It was also suggested that the probiotic caused an increase in interferon-gamma, an important immune system molecule (News-medical.net, February 13, 2008). Another study suggested that though probiotics may help improve the overall health of athletes, there was no direct proof that they help increase athletic performance (Norton, Amy, August 3, 2007).

Probiotics and Fatigue

Studies have suggested that taking probiotics may help alleviate chronic fatigue syndrome. One Swedish study observed ten male and five female patients who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. These test subjects were given a regimen that included daily treatments with an activated yogurt.

Six of the patients, including four of the women, reported improvements in their physical and/or mental health after these treatments, with some of them claiming dramatic improvement (Harding, Anne, February 27, 2009). The findings of the study were that improvement of health is possible using probiotics, and further studies should be conducted in patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (Sullivan, Åsa, Nord, Carl E., and Evengård, Birgitta, January 26, 2009).

Probiotics and the Immune System

Probiotics are also believed to aid the immune system. One study conducted in the Netherlands concluded that preoperative probiotics reduced the incidence of infectious complications resulting from abdominal surgery, liver transplantation, and severe trauma (Borrell, Brendan, May 12, 2008).

In another study, a nutrition researcher at Tufts University reviewed 161 published reports on the immunological effects of yogurt, and concluded that yogurt has immunostimulatory effects in patients whose immune systems are compromised by disease or medical treatments (Brody, Jane E., December 25, 2001).

Conclusions

Probiotics, either from eating activated foods or taking probiotic supplements are good for maintaining a healthy intestinal flora. They displace disease-causing bacteria in the gut, aid in proper digestion, and might help people stay more fit and less fatigued. They also might help stimulate the body’s immune system to keep you infection-free. Click this link for the most popular probiotics supplements on Amazon.

Probiotic Supplements Benefits

  • relieving chronic constipation
  • can shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in infants and children
  • Stimulates the immune system
  • regulate bowel movements
  • Probiotic treatment that restores the balance of microflora may be helpful for such common female urogenital problems as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and urinary tract infection.
  • may also help people with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

There might be a place for probiotics in your diet, after discussing possible treatment options with your nutritionist or personal physician.



References
ADVANCE for Physician Assistance. (May-June 2008). The Advantages of Using Probiotics. Patient Handout. Retrieved from: http://nurse-practitioners-and-physician-assistants.advanceweb.com/SharedResources/Downloads/2008/050108/PA/pa050108_p58pathandout.pdf

Borrell, Brendan. (May 12, 2008). A Boom in Edible Bacteria. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2008/may/12/health/he-probiotics12

Brody, Jane E. (December 25, 2001). PERSONAL HEALTH; Make These Bacteria Go to Work for You. New York Times. Retrieved from:
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/25/health/personal-health-make-these-bacteria-go-to-work-for-you.html?fta=y&pagewanted=print

Harding, Anne. (February 27, 2009). Probiotics may help some with chronic fatigue. Reuters. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/02/27/us-probiotics-fatigue-idUSTRE51Q44G20090227

News-medical.net. (February 13, 2008). Probiotics Help Keep Athletes Fit and Well. Retrieved from: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/02/13/35241.aspx

Norton, Amy. (August 3, 2007). No Proof Probiotics Aid Athletic Performance. Reuters Health. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/08/03/us-athletic-performance-idUSCOL36858820070803

Probiotic. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 22, 2011, from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic

Sullivan, Åsa, Nord, Carl E., and Evengård, Birgitta. (January 26, 2009). Effect of supplement with lactic-acid producing bacteria on fatigue and physical activity in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutrition Journal 8 (4). Retrieved from: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-8-4.pdf

Yes it does. In various cultures around the world such as Asia and Latin America people have known for long that spicy foods help weight loss.

Researchers acknowledge that the substance in peppers responsible for their hot taste (e.g. capsaicin) helps the body burn additional calories. Peppers do not only help reduce body weight they also pack a ton of other health benefits. More on this in a bit.

As far back as 6,000 BC, Ayurvedic medicine used black pepper to increase the digestibility of food. The internal heat generated by the consumption of pepper indicates its positive influence on the body’s absorption of nutrients.

How Does Regular Intake of Peppers Help Weight Loss?

Peppers aid weight loss in several ways;

  • by raising body temperature. Peppers act as so called thermonutrients which are responsible for a process called thermogenesis, the production of heat in the body which makes excess calories burn faster.
  • by enhancing digestion, due to an increase of hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach. For the athletes among you, peppers are also thought to increase absorption of amino acids and proteins post workout.
  • experts believe that capsaicin as well as other substances responsible for the spiciness of certain foods reduces hunger pangs for salty, sweet, and fatty, foods. Some scientists state that the reduction of appetite is due to the increase of epinephrine and norepinephrine levels in the body which causes us to feel less hungry.
  • by improving bio-availability. This term refers to your body’s ability to absorb and transform foods into forms that can be used and progressed. Peppers enhance bio-availability and thus improve digestion and nutritional status (the take and utilization of nutrients). In other words, peppers improve how your food is being digested and used by the body.
  • There’s another benefit of regular intake of peppers for weight loss purposes and the intake of capsaicin in particular. “Although capsaicin appears to work by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, it doesn’t produce the undesirable side effects associated with sympathetic stimulants such as ephedrine”. said Dr. Moritani, Kyoto University Japan.

    Burn Fat, Not Your Mouth!

    Some experts think that while it’s true that peppers and other spicy nutrients can increase metabolism, the increase is marginal and thus its weight loss benefits. Opinions on whether or not adding peppers to your daily diet will help weight loss sufficiently differ:

    “It’s possible to consume enough of capsaicin from your diet to raise your calorie-burning rate”, says Dr. Toshio Moritani, a professor and director of the Laboratory of Applied Physiology at Kyoto University in Japan.

    “I think it will probably be quite difficult for a Western population to eat a dosage of capsaicin from food items to obtain a fat-reducing effect.” said Dr. Anita Belza, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen

    Apart from that, not everybody likes the taste of peppers and the burning sensation in your mouth. For those people Capsiplex may be a valuable option.

    Capsiplex is a clinically proven weight loss pill containing concentrated capsaicin. It has shown to help burn up to 12 times more calories. In a placebo controlled study test persons were able to burn up to an extra 278 calories. Capsiplex is100% natural, has no known side effects, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Learn more about this natural supplement by reading this extensive Capsiplex weight loss pills review.

    General Health Benefits of Peppers and Spicy Foods

    Peppers are natural anti-depressants and stress relievers. By eating spicy foods the brain is triggered to produce endorphins and serotonins. These are natural painkillers that also promote a sense of well-being and lift up your mood.

    Peppers also contain a wide range of healthy substances such as beta-carotene (in red chili peppers) to vitamin C. They lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and fatty acids (triglycerides) in your body. Thet are known to improve sleep, increase energy levels in the morning, help fight flu and colds, improve breathing especially among those who suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis.

Recently I read about negative calorie foods. There are whole lists circulating the internet with foods that should have negative calories. The thought behind it is that by chewing and digesting these foods your body burns more calories than it gets by eating such foods. Well, to be honest, I don’t think this is true. It sounds like a myth and according to Time.com it is.

You may have heard that some foods, because they are difficult to digest, will make you lose weight. Dubbed “negative-calorie foods,” citrus fruits and celery have both basked in this flattering light in fad diets over the years. The problem is that it’s not true.

The calories your body burns in fueling the digestive cycle are minuscule compared with the calories in the food itself. Although chewing celery might seem like a strenuous activity, it burns about the same amount of calories as watching grass grow.

Source: Time.com

I always drink whole milk and full fat yogurt and avoid the fat free, light, reduced-fat, skimmed milk products. As always there are two sides. The one that is convinced that light products are better for our health and the, less prominent side, that sticks with the products as they were intended by nature.

One thing I (do think to) know for sure is that we are manipulated by the food industry for commercial purposes only. The health claims they make are not to benefit our well being but only for their profits.

I am convinced it is better to drink milk of which the fat has not been removed because the fat isn’t in it for nothing. It has a purpose. If you are concerned about taking in too much fat or sugar just drink less of it.

For the same reason I sporadically drink cola but never cola light. I could go on about it but Megan has written an excellent post on this subject. It’s titled Why Whole Milk is the Healthiest Choice and it’s an interesting read.