What Are Probiotics and Why You Need Them – Part 1

Posted: January 28, 2009 in food, health, nutrition, Nutrition Tidbits, Uncategorized
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Bacteria is a funny thing.  It makes people ill and yet it exists, in less severe amounts, all over the body: the skin, the intestinal and urinary tracts, and a whole host of other places.  Some of it helps to keep the body safe from serious illnesses – yet too much bacteria causes a person to get sick.  Probiotics are the bacteria which naturally occur naturally in food, or are added to it, and can be beneficial to one’s health and overall wellness . . . particularly when it comes to protecting the body against certain illnesses.

Probiotics vs. Antibiotics
Probiotics are not to be confused with antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill germs and they are great at their job.  However, they do not differentiate between the “good” bacteria – probiotics – and the “bad” bacteria – those things which make people sick.  Thus, antibiotics tend to kill off probiotics as well, never recognizing them as beneficial; in fact, they are never recognized as anything other than another type of bacteria.

The downside is that antibiotics can also kill off the naturally occurring probiotics in the body, thus upsetting their delicate balance.  This can cause a number of things, such as yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, urinary tract infections, and even jock itch.

As such, many people believe that taking probiotics when on antibiotics, that balance can be safely maintained.  Presumably, the antibiotics will not be able to kill off the influx of “good” bacteria at the rate it is introduced into the body.  The probiotics replace what the antibiotics have been eliminating, and the natural balance is restored, thus keeping the body safe against illnesses to which it may be vulnerable.

Additionally, taking probiotics can be a proactive approach to great health.

Where can you find probiotics?
There are a number of probiotic foods out there, many of which you might find surprising.  For instance, yogurt is considered an excellent probiotic food.  It is beneficial to both the intestinal tract and the urinary tract; in women, it is even helpful to the vaginal tract.  In order to be truly helpful, the yogurt must contain lactobacillus or certain other types of bacteria.  Generally, the container will include a note which specifies that there are live cultures in the food.  Notably, some antibiotics cause stomach problems; yogurt as a probiotic may be able to offset the yeast infections and stomach problems frequently caused by antibiotics.

There are also many drinks which contain probiotics.  One of them is called kefir.  Kefir is a drink made out of cultures; it is usually flavored with some kind of fruit.  It can be very helpful in offsetting a number of the things to which antibiotics leave the body vulnerable.

Other helpful foods include cottage cheese, and vegetables which have been preserved or fermented.  Probiotics are also readily available in many dietary supplements.

More to come . . . 
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article in the next issue where I’ll talk about the many specific health benefits you can achieve by taking probiotics.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!
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