by Cyndra Neal
For those who have not been following the latest buzz in the food and alternative remedies industry, it is pertinent to first state that probiotics are basically considered to be live microorganisms that are found in the human digestive system. There has been some debate about how to define probiotics but the most accepted definition has been the above mentioned one that the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations uses.
The microorganisms referred to as probiotics are bacteria, yeast or viruses that are beneficial for the human body. Among the ‘good bacteria’ that are found, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the ones that are used most often. Probiotics can be naturally present in some foods like yogurt, unfermented and fermented milk, juices, soy beverages and miso. These probiotics are now also added in some of these foods for those who prefer to buy foods that contain them.
To understand the reason why there has been such hype about probiotics in the last few years it is important to understand that the natural flora of the digestive system in the human body can be disturbed by antibiotics that kill the good bacteria along with the pathogens or bad bacteria. It can also be imbalanced by pathogens that cause disease.
Today while there is a large amount of empirical data that proves that probiotics are helpful in many ways, scientists and researchers are yet to understand completely how probiotics work. It is hypothesized that probiotics fill up the digestive tract thereby removing or replacing the bad bacteria that cause issues. Another theory is that the probiotics create a healthy flora in the digestive tract in such a manner that the bad bacteria cannot survive.
A conference held by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine and American Society for Microbiology revealed that scientists thought that there was strong evidence that probiotics were helpful in the following health related areas:
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome
– Infections of the Urinary Tract or the female genital tract
– Quicker healing for intestinal infection caused by clostridium
– Repetition of a bladder cancer condition
– Prevention and management of atopic dermatitis in children
Overall the health benefits of probiotics can be surmised into three main categories.
1. Healthy gut health – While further research is required for confirmatory proof of the affect of probiotics, it is fairly easy to believe that probiotics help in constipation, lactose intolerance, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome and the H. pylori infection.
2. Strong immune system – A study that was conducted among elderly people, it was proven that those who were on probiotics like fermented milk recovered 20% faster from a disease than others. Another research also proved that the use of probiotics can help the implementation of drug therapy.
3. Freedom from vaginal issues – Yeast infections of the vagina is an issue that plagues many women. It was observed in a small study that woman who consumed probiotics reported that their candida infection was lessened after consuming probiotics for some time.
While the debate about whether any form of alternative medicine is effective or not shall continue for some time, the world is today moving towards herbal and alternative remedies. This is mainly due to the fact that it does not have any side effects whatsoever. Therefore, people do not shirk from trying a certain therapy especially if the food in question is easily available and already a part of the diet. Since the specific foods that are beneficial for some people differ from person to person, there may be a need to try out various foods before you find one that really suits you.