What are probiotics?
Probiotics is a term derived from Latin and Greek, meaning favorable to life. According to the Food and Drug Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), probiotics are microorganisms which, when administered in adequate quantities confer a health benefit on the host. The microorganisms are non-pathogenic bacteria as small as a single celled organism, and do not promote or cause disease.
Although the word probiotics seems to be relatively recent, its application can be traced back to the late nineteenth century when sickness was attributed to a buildup of waste products in the colon, as well as the leakage of toxins materials from the colon into the bloodstream. It was believed back then that changes in the diet intended to reduce toxic decomposition in the colon would bring beneficial health changes to an individual.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics. During the e first decades of the twentieth century, many doctors recommended acidophilus milk, containing the lactobacilli bacterium for the treatment of constipation and diarrhea.
The fundamental factor of benefiting from probiotics is the assured survivability of bacteria as it passes through the acidity of the stomach, continuing through the small intestine, and finally colonizing the colon. In 1985, Herwood Gorbach and Barry Goldin discovered a probiotic with such characteristics Lactobacillus GG (LGG) named after them. The bacteria results effective in surviving the acidity of the stomach and successfully colonizing the colon.
Probiotic microorganisms, especially the LGG strain have proven to be beneficial for a variety of disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, Pseudomembranous colitis, gastritis, acute nonbacterial diarrhea, and ulcers. Probiotic foods (involving fermentation in their production) and supplements, such as culturelle are recommended to treat diseases and disorders, ranging from digestive ailments to general health issues.
The most often recommended types of bacteria are lactobacillus GG, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus bulgaricus, and bifidobacterium, which is contained in the nutrients of breast milk. They can be found in over-the counter supplement preparations that can be easily obtained at the grocery or health food stores.
The side effects resulting from treatment with probiotics include headaches, diarrhea, constipation, intestinal gas, and bloating. These effects are due to the cleansing process of toxins that the body is going through, and usually last a few days.
It is highly recommended to clean the digestive tract with an enema or colonic treatment before beginning a treatment with probiotic supplements. People under medications should seek the advice of a physician before using probiotic dietary supplements, as they often influence the frequency of bowel movement requiring dosage adjustment.