Probiotics are an overlooked method of boosting the immune system and improving the digestive system’s health. These tiny little bacteria are considered good bacteria, and they’re naturally found in the intestines. A poor diet, illness or a round of antibiotics are common causes of an intestinal flora imbalance, but your patients don’t have to have an existing gut imbalance to benefit from probiotics!
What are Probiotics?
As you should know, not all bacteria cause illness! The body is teeming with good bacteria that’s essential for fighting off the bad ones. Probiotics are the good guys and work hard in the digestive tract to ensure optimal nutrient absorption, kill off harmful bacteria and regulate digestion. It’s estimated that each normal, healthy human has more than 100 trillion microorganisms in their bowels, and the only reason they don’t make them sick is because the bad microorganisms are balanced by the good.
Probiotics and Gastrointestinal Health
Diarrhea is very commonly treatable with probiotics. Lactobacillus GG, a type of good bacteria, has been shown to shorten the length of infectious diarrhea in children and infants. Two very large reviews suggest that diarrhea caused by antibiotics can be treated 60 percent of the time.
Probiotics are also helpful in patients with Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome. There isn’t a significant amount of clinical research out yet, but several small studies indicate that they maintain ulcerative colitis remission and prevent a relapse of Crohn’s disease. More research is required to pinpoint what strains are the most effective, but an increasing number of GI specialists are recommending their patients take a daily supplement to complement their medical therapies.
Probiotics and Immunity
The gastrointestinal tract is part of the immune system, working as a barrier against bad microorganisms. How well the bowels are working in terms of immune defense depends on how balanced the good and bad bacteria flora are. Research proves that there are particular types of bacteria in the gut that influence certain parts of the immune system. This doesn’t mean you should overdo the probiotics. “Balance” isn’t just a word thrown out there. It’s very important that the patient’s body has a balance between the good and bad bacteria. Too much of a good thing is a legitimate concern in terms of gut health.
Probiotics aren’t just beneficial after a GI illness or taking antibiotics. Instead, it’s extremely beneficial to take them on a regular basis. The bad to good balance is constantly fluctuating depending on diet, stress levels and what a patient has been exposed to, so making a daily effort is never a bad idea.
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