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Probiotics

Probiotics
(Lactobacillus acidophilus; Bifidobacteria species)

DESCRIPTION/FUNCTION

Probiotics are microbial food supplements that improve health by altering intestinal microbial balance. Several pounds of bacteria reside in the intestines, and it is important to cultivate the beneficial bacteria, rather than pathogenic bacteria. The beneficial bacteria cause lactic acid production and fermentation. The changes in the colonic environment make it less favorable for pathogenic bacteria to live. In addition, butyric acid and other short chain fatty acids are produced, which are used by the colonocytes (cells lining the large intestine). Beneficial bacteria can also produce some vitamins (e.g., B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, K).

RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for Adults

None.

MAJOR SOURCES

Fermented foods (especially yogurt) and supplements.

MAINTENANCE/THERAPEUTIC RANGE

1 billion to 10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units).

POSSIBLE THERAPEUTIC APPLICATIONS

Cancer (colon), diarrhea (from contaminated food and water), eczema (infants), immune function, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infection.

COMMENTS

To make yogurt, a culture containing the bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and sometimes Lactobacillus acidophilus, are used. Some yogurt products will not have live beneficial bacteria present. Antibiotic therapy often reduces the population of beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus species reside in the vagina and can help with various problems. Lactobacillus bacteria need to reach the second half of the small intestine (ileum) alive, and Bifidobacteria bacteria need to reach the large intestine (colon) alive. Use supplements that are enteric coated (protected from stomach acid), or take between meals, or take with food that is low in protein and fat. And use prebiotics, such as FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and inulin, which serve as food for the beneficial bacteria. Good sources of prebiotics-containing foods are asparagus, bananas, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, and onions.

CAUTIONS

None significant, but consult with your health practitioner if you are severely immune compromised (e.g., HIV/AIDS).

References
Jellin, JM, editor. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2007.
Pillepich, JA. The Nutraceutical Reference Guide, 2005.

Joshua Rubin

www.eastwesthealing.com

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