Probiotic supplements are designed to improve the balance of “gut flora”, the bacteria and other microbes that reside in your digestive system. The gut flora plays a role in nutrient absorption and in immune system function.
Gut flora imbalances are common after taking antibiotics. Many antibiotics are non-selective. They will kill the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system, as well as the “bad” bacteria causing an infection in another part of the body.
Imbalances may also occur as a result of modern life. We are exposed to antibiotic residuals in the food supply. These may be present in any animal foods we consume. Chlorinated water is another modern cause of gut flora imbalances.
While chlorine helps to protect us from waterborne illnesses, it is an effective antibacterial agent that may destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut when consumed. Antibacterial soaps, lotions and other items may play a contributing role.
Probiotics are commonly recommended following a course of treatment with antibiotics to help restore gut flora balance. They may also be beneficial for anyone suffering from symptoms that may be related to the imbalance.
Symptoms of gut flora imbalance may include:
· frequent diarrhea
· heartburn/acid reflux
· frequent colds or other viral infections
· slow recovery from illnesses or wounds
· skin problems
· stomach cramps
· nutritional deficiencies
· frequent yeast infections
You could have any one of these symptoms or all of them. Some people experience diarrhea followed by a period of constipation, for example. There have been studies showing probiotics benefits for all of these conditions.
Yogurts, Capsules, Fiber and More...
Many brands of yogurt contain the live, active bacteria cultures that are beneficial to the digestive system. Remember that all brands of yogurt are not the same in this respect. You have to buy a brand that contains the “active” cultures. This information should be on the label. It will clearly state that the product contains "live and active cultures", the most common of which are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus.
Probiotic supplements in the form of capsules containing the live active cultures are also available. But as with anything else it is important to choose a good brand. Research has shown that some brands do not increase the counts of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.
What are your other options as far as balancing gut flora?
Increasing your intake of fiber, especially fruit fiber is an alternative. This type of fiber provides “food” for the bacteria, resulting in an increase in the number of cultures. Kiwifruit is believed to be particularly effective according to some studies. The fiber is referred to as “prebiotic”.
Prebiotic supplements are also available. Some of these capsules contain concentrated kiwifruit, including the skin. The largest concentration of the prebiotic fiber is found in the skin. Some supplements contain only kiwifruit pulp and may not be as effective.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consider trying a prebiotic or probiotic. They are safe, natural, food-based alternatives for a healthy digestive system and the rest of your body.
They are certainly worth a try if you are suffering from any digestive or gastrointestinal issues before resorting to any medications or more powerful options that may cause other side effects.