Category Archives: Probiotics

Herb, probiotic show promise for gastrointestinal health

Two studies have shed light on possible ways to destroy esophageal cancer cells and ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The first, from researchers at Cork Cancer Research Center in Ireland, says curcumin started to kill esophageal cancer cells within 24 hours, according to MSNBC. Results of the study, conducted in a laboratory, were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Curcumin is a substance found in turmeric. According to the story, the natural chemical caused the cancer cells to die.

In another promising study, a probiotic was found effective for symptoms of IBD, according to WebMD. It also was found to contribute to the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, showed how a probiotic strain decreased bleeding, reduced inflammation and increased the weight of mice with colitis. In addition, the probiotic increased blood-vessel growth in the intestines.

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What to look for in a probiotic supplement

To sufficiently repopulate the digestive tract, look for a probiotic supplement with 3 billion or more beneficial organisms.

The best probiotics are enclosed in vegetarian capsules with no added fillers.

There are several strains of probiotics that can contribute to digestive health and wellness.

A synergistic mix of probiotic strains, enclosed in a single supplement, provide specific benefits:

Bifidobacterium bifidum
Found to reduce colon inflammation, strengthen the immune system, improve allergies and inhibit bacterial overgrowth

Bifidobacterium longum
Stimulates the immune system and provides gastrointestinal support during antibiotic use

Lactobacillus acidophilus
Creates a positive environment in which other probiotics thrive and inhibits the growth of invasive bacteria

Lactobacillus casei
Stimulates growth of beneficial organisms, enhances immunity, improves digestion and reduces milk intolerance

Lactobacillus plantarum
Reduces the movement of bacteria from the gut to internal organs and helps with the discomfort associated with malabsorption

Lactobacillus rhamnosis
Colonizes and protects the small intestine, inhibits growth of harmful bacteria and helps with lactose intolerance and diarrhea

Lactobacillus salivarius
Supports bowel health and strengthens the immune system

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Hospital workers, children on antibiotics might be well advised to take a daily probiotic supplement

Antibiotic contamination might be common throughout many hospitals — including in waiting areas, offices and cafeterias — according to Reuters.

A Norwegian study, which examined two of the country’s hospitals, found the highest levels of contamination in medicine and patient rooms, as was expected. Other areas of contamination included telephones, keyboards and tabletops.

In all, 81% of samples taken throughout the hospitals came back positive for antibiotic contamination, Reuters reports.

This study is particularly concerning given the fact that antibiotic resistance has become a pervasive problem in the U.S.

Among drugs that send children back for treatment and hospitalization, prescription antibiotics cause the most problems.

More than half a million children annually experience negative side effects to commonly used drugs, according to The Associated Press. The main offenders, antibiotics, are blamed for rashes, stomachaches and diarrhea.

While antibiotics are used to kill harmful bacteria, they can also eliminate strains of beneficial flora, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The loss of “friendly bacteria” can lead to gastrointestinal illness, leave people vulnerable to invasive bacteria and compromise immune function.

Therefore, it might be wise of medical professionals and children to supplement their diets with probiotics. Probiotics, taken away from antibiotics, help repopulate the gut with health- and immune-promoting organisms, and they may help defend against adverse effects of antibiotic therapy.

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Good reasons to take a probiotic

Probiotics, often referred to as “friendly bacteria,” help restore the flora balance in our digestive systems.

The rigors of daily life, and the choices we make, can sometimes disrupt colon and digestive health. Beneficial bacteria is negatively affected or destroyed by the following:

  • Drugs and antibiotics
  • Viruses and illness
  • Poor eating habits
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as yeast overgrowth

The loss of probiotics in our digestive systems can lead to several digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea and food intolerances, as well as other health conditions.

There are billions of probiotics in our digestive systems. In fact, it is estimated there are more beneficial bacteria in our intestines than there are cells in the body.

Probiotic organisms impede the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast. They also increase the pH of the colon to inhibit tissue changes.

In digestion, probiotics aid in breaking down lactose, fiber and proteins. They help the body properly absorb vitamins and essential nutrients.

A study from New York University’s Langone Medical Center connects gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux and Barrett’s esophagus with bacterial balance in the throat.

Researchers found that subjects with esophageal disease had bacteria in their throats that are usually associated with the stomach, according to Forbes. Healthy throat bacteria include Streptococcus.

The Forbes story asserts unhealthy bacteria in the throat could be the cause of GERD and possibly be connected to acid reflux. Barrett’s, a result of chronic GERD, is a precancerous condition of the throat.

The report ends with a profound statement: “Scientists hope they might someday treat and prevent disease by shifting the bacterial balance.”

Probiotics, or friendly bacteria, might be essential to maintaining systemic health.

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Probiotics helpful for belly fat, chronic fatigue, restless legs and irritable bowel

After pregnancy, the most commonly used probiotics might help women better control belly fat, according to WebMD.

In a study from Finland, the probiotics lactobacillus and bifidobacterium were found to decrease central obesity — a body mass index of 30 or more and waist size of more than 31.5 inches.

Only 25% of women who received daily probiotic capsules, plus dietary advice, had central obesity following pregnancy, WebMD reports. That compared to 43% of women given dietary counseling alone.

CFS
Another study, from Toronto, connects beneficial bacteria with decreased anxiety levels in people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that a strain of Lactobacillus casei significantly decreased anxiety symptoms in 39 chronic fatigue patients.

The researchers noted that, in addition to this study, past research has shown an association between CFS and intestinal flora imbalances.

Results of the study were published in Gut Pathogens.

A virus called XMRV might be to blame for CFS, according to a report from RedOrbit.com. In a study, the virus, also linked to prostate cancer, was detected in 68 out of 101 CFS sufferers.

The study points out that additional research is needed to determine if the virus is a direct cause of CFS.

There is no known cure for the condition, which affects about 17 million people worldwide. However, people with CFS and fibromyalgia might find relief through cognitive behavioral therapy and nutrition.

RLS, IBS
In addition, a story from the Belleville News-Democrat says there is a link between Restless Legs Syndrome and intestinal bacteria.

In a small study, a gastroenterologist from Washington University in St. Louis looked at how an antibiotic, probiotics and zinc might play a role in relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and RLS.

The doctor studied 13 people who suffered from IBS and RLS. Following treatment, all of the subjects experienced relief from IBS symptoms, and 10 showed improvement in the leg condition, according to the News-Democrat.

Studies suggest probiotics improve digestion, support gut health and strengthen the immune system. A good probiotic supplement should contain 3 billion or more “friendly bacteria.”

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Antacids increase fracture risk

News of another study confirming the relationship between certain antacids and bone fractures surfaced in mid-2009.

The drugs, proton pump inhibitors and histamine-2 receptor antagonists, increased the risk of hip and thigh fractures, according to HealthDay News. The greatest risk was in people aged 50-59.

Brand names of these drugs include Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac. Researchers have blamed proton pump inhibitors for decreasing the body’s ability to absorb calcium, HealthDay reports.

In this most recent study, people who had hip fractures were 30 percent more likely to be on proton pump inhibitors. Those taking histamine-2 receptor antagonists were at an 18 percent increased fracture risk.

According to the story, people on these drugs are also at an increased risk of contracting food-borne infections.

On a positive note, HealthDay reports that fracture risk decreases when the drugs are discontinued.

Instead of antacids and acid-reducing drugs, a good alternative might be digestive enzyme supplements combined with herbal ingredients such as aloe, DGL and marshmallow.

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A gluten-free diet might require probiotic supplements

Probiotics might be beneficial for those following a gluten-free diet, as research from the Spanish National Research Council reveals the diet could negatively affect gut and immune health.

A small study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, indicates a gluten-free diet leads to a reduction in the population of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two of the most important strains of beneficial gut bacteria. In addition, gluten-free dieters saw a decrease in markers of immune health, according to a report from foodnavigator.com.

Individuals with celiac disease have no other choice but to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains.

Probiotic supplements containing 3 billion or more viable organisms are an excellent choice for boosting and maintaining gut health. Probiotics, or “friendly bacteria,” help restore the colon’s natural flora balance and support immune health.

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