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).
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.
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:
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:
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
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