Natural Health and Fitness

The Benefits Of Having Good Bacteria In Your System

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Bulgarian yogurt

Bulgarian yogurt: A source of good bacteria?

Really, is there such a thing as good bacteria? You might be used to hearing about the negative effects of bacteria. After all, many types of bacteria are responsible for terrible, often infectious diseases that cause a lot of suffering or even kill. Apparently there are two sides to every story.

Yes, there is another more positive side of bacteria. Many bacterial strains have health promoting effects. In fact, the antibiotics we use to fight disease can over-kill, and rid us of some beneficial microorganisms.

The Positive Effects of Beneficial Bacteria Inside Your Gut

Scientific studies indicate that the human digestive tract is populated with as many as one thousand different types of bacteria. Also referred to as intestinal flora, everybody has a unique population of bacteria living inside them. [1] Here are some health benefits of these friendly bacteria:

  • They work together to repel harmful bacteria.
  • They assist with the digestive process.
  • They help synthesize certain vitamins and minerals such as B12.
  • Supports immune function.

The Downside of Antibiotic Use

Antibiotics are miracle drugs. More than any other class of drug, they have helped to save millions of people from dying premature deaths. But they have a dark side. Antibiotics don’t just kill health-destroying bacteria; they kill good bacteria as well. [2] If you have taken a course of antibiotics recently, it is a good idea for you to consider using probiotics.

Repopulating Your Gut with Healthy Bacteria

Probiotics are foods or supplements rich in beneficial bacteria. Foods rich in good bacteria tend to be fermented dairy products like kefir or yogurt. YouThere are also tons of different probiotic supplements. Probiotic supplements vary in both the types and amounts of different beneficial bacteria they supply.

Getting the Most Out of Your Yogurt and Kefir

Yogurt and kefir (a less well known dairy product made from fermented cow’s milk) are both good probiotic sources. But there are downsides.

Firstly, have to be careful and make sure that the yogurt and kefir you are eating contain “live cultures.” When a product label says “live cultures” it means that the cultures were added after pasteurization (heat treatment). Some manufacturers add the cultures and then pasteurize, killing both the the bad and good bacteria.

Secondly, in order to reduce production cost and/or maximize profit, some manufacturers use cheap cultures that are not beneficial.

Thirdly, yogurt is usually made with lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus (previously known as streptococcus thermophilus). While these two do offer benefits,they are transient visitors and do not colonize the digestive tract. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, page 360 (Amazon).

Of course, eating yogurt and kefir on a daily basis is not practical for everyone, partially because of the fact that many people are lactose intolerant. While some lactose intolerant individuals can consume yogurt without any problems, many cannot. [3]

If eating fermented dairy products daily just doesn’t work for you (regardless of whether or not you are lactose intolerant), you could try taking a daily probiotic dietary supplement.

The Confusing World of Probiotic Dietary Supplements

Because there are so many different types of probiotic dietary supplements, trying to figure out a good supplement for you can seem overwhelming. There are many forms of probiotics but the two most recommended are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum. These are two compounds to look for in your probiotic supplement.

As if not confusing enough already, there are also prebiotics to think about. Prebiotic can be defined as nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon. [4] In other word, prebiotics feed probiotics.

Beneficial bacteria are more important than anyone realized even as recently as ten years ago. Take care of your health by making sure that your digestive tract is populated with lots of health-promoting bacteria. Consuming fermented dairy products regularly can help, but taking a daily probiotic supplement might be the better option.


References:

1. New York Times: In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria

2. University of Birmingham in Alabama: Does my body have both good and bad bacteria?

3. NDDIC: Lactose Intolerance

4. Journal of Nutrition: Prebiotics: The Concept Revisited

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