Fix the Imbalance
Every day there is new evidence emerging of the health benefits of probiotics and/or new diseases being linked to altered gut flora (dysbiosis). Just a few of the diseases or conditions linked to altered gut flora which may be improved by taking probiotics include dental cavities, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease, allergies, intestinal infections, yeast infections (especially vaginal), colds and respiratory infections, rheumatologic conditions, multiple sclerosis, autism, and cancer.
One common analogy used to discuss healthy bacteria balance is the idea of a garden that has been overgrown with weeds, or bad bacteria. As any gardener knows, you can’t just add new plants to a weedy garden. First, weeds must be pulled and the good seeds planted. In time, good plants will take over.
In the same way, lactic acid bacteria, such as acidophilus and bifidobacterium, are the good weeds which have to overtake the other bacteria. But the bad weeds of parasites and candida must be reduced so that the gut wall can heal.
Decoding the Bacteria
The term friendly bacteria is used to describe the types of bacteria that offer some benefit when ingested. Bacteria make the holes in swiss cheese and give buttermilk a tangy flavor. But how are you supposed to know what to take? With thousands of different types, it can be hard to know the difference.
What are the differences between strains? L. casei, a common probiotic, has been commonly studied, and certain strains, like L. casei DN-114001 and L. casei Shirota, have been found beneficial.
Some corporations, like Dannon, have even trademarked their own unique strains, like L. casei Immunitas. According to company spokespeople, the differences between strains can be compared to the differences between Chihuahuas and German shepherds. They might both be dogs, but their abilities are significantly different.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that have been shown to have a beneficial health effect on the body. They must contain a sufficient number of these friendly bacteria that are still alive and active at the end of the shelf-life of the product and be proven to survive the strong acids in the stomach. There are no known side effects of probiotics. When consumed, they gradually become part of the healthy bacteria that normally live in the digestive system.
Prebiotics are substances ingested to promote the growth of probiotics. Two of the most commonly used prebiotics are inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). Synbiotics are supplements or functional foods that contain both a prebiotic and a probiotic.