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Probiotics and Disease Prevention

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probiotics_and_disease_preventionDoctors Use Probiotics to Fight Disease

Probiotics are considered beneficial bacteria that can improve overall health and functioning. Some refer to probiotics as “friendly” bacteria. In the early Twentieth entury, probiotics were identified as being important to healthy functioning.  More recently probiotics and disease prevention have been connected through numerous studies. As a result doctors are beginning to use probiotics to fight disease and improve our overall health.

Probiotics to Improve Digestive, Circulatory and Pulmonary Health

As we learn more and more about the benefits of probiotics, health practitioners are looking at ways to improve a wide variety of conditions. Probiotics naturally live in our digestive system. Our modern lifestyle, including the use of antibiotics or not getting enough fiber can decrease the number of beneficial bacteria present. With a lowered presence of beneficial bacteria, more harmful bacteria can flourish and cause digestive problems.

Certain strains of probiotics have been shown to improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and difficulty with bowel movements, as well as potentially reduce the effect of salmonella in the digestive system. Doctors will now often prescribe the use probiotics when taking oral antibiotics as a way to avoid antibiotic induced diarrhea.

Probiotics and Disease Prevention

Beyond the more common benefits associated with probiotics and the digestive system, the use of probiotics are also thought to improve circulatory and pulmonary health. Probiotics and disease prevention studies in both lab animals and humans have shown that lactobacillus bulgaricus (LAB), has been shown to lower serum cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure.

Cancer Prevention Possibilities

Doctors and researchers are also investigating to role of probiotics in preventing cancer. It has been observed that in one population study there was a lower rate of colon cancer and a higher incidence of eating fermented milk products (such as yogurt).

Probiotics can be found in many fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir. If you are shopping for yogurt, be sure to read the label and buy yogurt that indicates the presence of live cultures. Some yogurt is pasteurized. The pasteurization process heats the food product to a temperature at which bacteria are destroyed. If you are trying to get the benefit of probiotics through yogurt, make sure and check your labels. Probiotics are also found in other fermented foods such as sauerkraut (brands that are sold in the refrigerator section typically have live and active cultures), kimchi, and some brined olives.

The challenge with probiotics and disease prevention, is that scientists are just really scratching the surface in understanding what happens in our digestive system. There are correlations in studies and lots of information and marketing about the benefits of probiotics. Probiotics are not a cure all to every health concern. However, if you and your family like to eat yogurt and you are interested in introducing probiotics into your family’s diet, think about choosing brands that have live and active cultures. Staying informed, looking at multiple sources of information and staying abreast of current research findings can allow you to sort out information and make the best choice for your family.

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