I was on a run this morning contemplating probiotics – a weird thought for a run, but it was on my mind. The other night I was discussing the importance of bowel health with my friend and I realized that it isn’t common knowledge that we should have one to two bowel movements per day, and that this is considered regular. This summer on my clinic shift, my supervisor informed me of this fact and I feel it’s valuable information for two reasons 1. a person who doesn’t have a regular bowel movement might not realize that having at least one daily is normal and 2. a person who has more than one bowel movement per day might not realize that they are actually normal!
All of these thoughts let me to probiotics. I’d like to start with the word biotic:
Of, relating to, or resulting from living things, esp. in their ecological relations
– the preservation of biotic diversity
When we think of the word pro-biotic, we naturally think that this substance must be in favor of the preservation of biotic diversity. In fact, this is very good definition of the action of probiotics. When probiotics breakdown products in your gastrointestinal system, they leave behind by products like lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that create an unfriendly environment for “bad” bacteria.
Let’s look at another familiar work that contains the suffix -biotic: Antibiotics.
Based on the logic used above, an anti-biotic must be in opposition to the preservation of biotic diversity; and in many ways this is true. Antibiotics are useful in many ways – in fact, their advent had been a major advancement in medical care. However, antibiotics can not differentiate between good and bad bacteria in your gut and elsewhere; they often wipe out all of the bacteria in your body.
Probiotics have a variety of uses, including:
– Treatment of vaginal infections
– Treatment of diarrhea
– Replacing the “good” intestinal bacteria destroyed by antibiotics
– Helping digestion and suppressing disease-causing bacteria
– Treatment of chronic constipation
– Treatment of symptoms that accompany irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
– Improvement of lactose tolerance in people who are lactose intolerant
– Enhancing the immune system
– Lowering risk of pollen allergies
– Reducing the risk of childhood eczema
– Helping to treat high cholesterol
If you want to increase your consumption of healthy probiotics, increase your intake of yogurt containing live cultures of L.acidophilus, miso and tempeh.