Bacteria Can Be Good For You! When we think of bacteria, we generally think it is bad. While this can be true, many of us are not aware that certain forms of bacteria can in fact be good for us. “Good” bacteria essentially combat the development of “bad” bacteria, which in turn strengthens our immune system and wards off disease. While the body naturally produces a supply of “good” bacteria, the lack of nutrients in the Standard American Diet, the use of antibiotics, prolonged illness or stress can deplete this supply, making it necessary to consume probiotic supplements in order to replenish “good” bacteria supplies. So, how do probiotics actually work?
The Benefits Of Probiotics. Probiotics are dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria or yeast, however lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are the most common microbes used. LAB have been used in the food industry for many years, because they are able to convert sugars (including lactose) and other carbohydrates into lactic acid. This not only provides the characteristic sour taste of fermented dairy foods such as yogurt, but acts as a preservative, by lowering the pH and creating fewer opportunities for harmful organisms to grow.
Probiotic bacterial cultures are intended to assist the body’s naturally occurring flora within the digestive tract to reestablish themselves. They are sometimes recommended by doctors, and, more frequently, by nutritionists, after a course of antibiotics, or as part of the treatment for candidiasis.
The rationale for probiotics is that the body contains a miniature ecology of microbes, collectively known as the gut flora. The number of bacterial types can be thrown out of balance by a wide range of circumstances including the use of antibiotics or other drugs, excess alcohol, stress, disease, exposure to toxic substances, or even the use of antibacterial soap. In cases like these, the bacteria that work well with our bodies may decrease in number, an event which allows harmful competitors to thrive, to the detriment of our health.
Maintenance of healthy gut flora is, however, dependent on many factors, especially the quality of food intake. Including a significant proportion of prebiotic foods in the diet has been demonstrated to support a healthy probiotic flora and may be a more effective and sustainable means of achieving the desirable health benefits promised by probiotics.
Experiments into the benefits of probiotic therapies suggest a range of potentially beneficial medicinal uses for probiotics. For example, research has indicated that ingestion of probiotics may aid individuals with lactose intolerance, those with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Probiotics have also been linked to prevention of colon cancer and the improvement of immune system functions thereby reducing the risk of contracting infections.
In addition to consuming probiotic supplements, the inclusion of the following foods also help promote a healthy environment within the gut: