Taking probiotics like a pro

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Disease, illness, even death, they can all be caused by the spread of bad bacteria. But there are billions of other kinds that could do your body a lot of good.

"You basically feel like you need to go to the bathroom 10, 15 times a day," says Adam Jonas who has colitis. "So it's pretty nasty. It's not a comfortable thing to be dealing with."

To help with his gut problem, he takes a capsule full of bacteria every day.

"It's new to hear doctors prescribing bacteria," says Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, the Co-author of Trust Your Gut, Senior Consultant at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Integrative medicine physician Gregory Plotnikoff did just that for Adam.

"I was really low in certain levels of good bacteria," says Adam.

Called probiotics, they can be found in yogurt. The doctor says they help the body produce vitamins, pain-relieving substances, and can improve digestion.

"They're friendly bacteria, beneficial bacteria," says Dr.Plotnikoff.

But sleep problems, surgery, stress, even antibiotics hurt the balance of good bacteria in your belly.

"40 million Americans suffer from chronic gut distress,” explains Dr. Plotnikoff. “Simply taking probiotics can help a large number of people."

They're helpful for most, but critically ill patients with immune system problems should steer clear of probiotics. Also, the FDA doesn't regulate probiotics for over-the-counter use. If you take them, the doctor says make sure they have at least 20 billion colony forming units, or CFU's, per capsule, and only wash them down with filtered or bottled water.

"City water has chlorine in it to get rid of bacteria," explains Dr. Plotnikoff.

Heat can also kill probiotics, so avoid coffee, tea or hot foods for at least 30 minutes before or after taking one.

"I take mine before I go to bed at night," Dr. Plotnikoff.

So does Adam.

"I would say I'm normal now," says Adam.

Probiotics are available over the counter, and the doctor says a two-month supply runs about $40 to $50.

Taking probiotics like a pro
REPORT #1996

BACKGROUND: Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines camera. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt with live cultures, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements. (SOURCE: http://www.webmd.com)

WHAT FOODS CONTAIN PROBIOTICS? Fermented dairy products have been advertised as containing "beneficial cultures." These cultures are what would now be considered probiotics. Other foods currently claiming to provide probiotics are cereal, juice, frozen yogurt, granola, candy bars, and cookies. (SOURCE: http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics)

SIDE EFFECTS OF PROBIOTICS: Side effects are rare. Most people do not experience any, or they may have a mild gastrointestinal side effect, such as gas, but there have been some case reports of serious adverse effects, and research on safety is ongoing. Concerns have also been raised about the quality of probiotic products. Some products have been found to contain smaller numbers of live microorganisms than expected. In addition, some products have been found to contain bacterial strains other than those listed as ingredients. (SOURCE: http://nccam.nih.gov/health)

BENEFITS: Although more research is needed, there's encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:

* Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
* Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
* Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
* Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
* Prevent and treat eczema in children
* Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
(SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com)

For More Information, Contact:

Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP
Senior Consultant
Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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