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Probiotic Supplementation ForA Healthy Gut And Body

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP

The human large intestine houses over 1,000 different types of bacteria, known as the microflora. Studies in recent years have shown that supplementation with health-promoting strains of bacteria can exert beneficial effects on preventing certain ailments and helping to better manage others.

Health-promoting effects of gut friendly bacteria are reported to includethe following: immune regulation, improved digestion and absorption, vitamin synthesis (vitamin K, biotin – a B vitamin, other B-vitamins), inhibition of the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi, cholesterol reduction, and lowering of gas distension. In fact, over 700 randomized, controlled, human studies provides strong evidence that probiotic supplementation may aid in preventing or treating various GI tract disorders, promoting GI health, and preventing metabolic syndrome.

For example, the Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are commonly used probiotics in various supplements. Supplementation studies suggest that they may aid lactose digestion in lactose-intolerant individuals, reduce constipation and infantile diarrhea, assist resistance to infections, and reduce inflammatory conditions in the gut.

The metabolic actions of certain probiotics also inhibit the build of cancer-causing agents in the bowel and have been shown to exert other cancer blocking activity. This may be quite important when you consider that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada. As well, the anti-inflammatory effectsof probiotic supplementation have been shown to be a useful adjunct in the management of certain inflammatory disorders including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, sepsis, and inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s  disease and Ulcerative Colitis). Other studies have shown that probiotic supplements can be helpful in antibiotic-associated diarrhea, eczema, and recurrent urinary tract infections

Another important consideration is that probiotics suppress the growth of harmful bacteria and other undesirable microorganisms, and help crowd them out of the colon.

As different probiotic stains exert their beneficial effects via a variety of different mechanisms, and appear to be synergistic in their health-promoting effects, many experts suggest taking a probiotic supplement containing a variety of gut-friendly bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus, etc).

Experts suggest that probiotic supplementation is superior to ingesting probiotics from functional foods (e.g. yogurt), as supplementation has been shown to be a more consistent method of supplementation and provide a much higher dose.  However, probiotic-containing foods can add some additional benefit in this regard.

From a safety standpoint probiotics should be used with caution in children, elderly persons, and individuals with major risk factors or multiple minor risk factors.

Remember that supplementation with prebiotics (e.g. FOS and inulin) can also help spur the growth of friendly gut bacteria. Prebiotics are the food upon which friendly bacteria thrive.

Primary Reference:

Wallace TC et al. Human gut microbiotica and its relationship to health and disease. Nutrition Reviews 2011. Vol 69 (7):392-403

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