Healthy Advice From VÄXA
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
In addition to consuming probiotic supplements, the inclusion
of the following foods also help promote a healthy environment
within the gut: