Your gut health is certainly more important than you think. Do you know that your gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of your immune system?
With so much focus on gut health, researchers are focusing on probiotics as these microorganisms are naturally found in the human digestive tract that improves the balance of healthy bacteria. The most common strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics has been known to treat or prevent a broad range of human diseases, conditions, and syndromes such as acute diarrhea, anxiety and depression, irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lactose intolerance, psoriasis etc (1).
Where do you find probiotics? Probiotics are normally consumed in fermented foods with active live cultures such as yogurt. They are also available in supplement form as capsules, liquid, powder and chewables.
Some of the strong benefits of probiotics include treatment in:
- Acute diarrhea. Many studies done in infants or children have reported the use of probiotics to either treat or prevent acute diarrhea (2). Patients who received Lactobacillus GG had decreased severity, shorter duration of illness, shorter hospital stay and were found to have a decreased likelihood of persistent diarrheal illness (3).
- Prevention and Treatment of Atopic Eczema. A study involving 31 infants with atopic eczema who were removed from exposure to cow milk and were given either Lactobacillus GG or a placebo showed that treatment with Lactobacillus GG resulted in a significant improvement in their conditions that was not observed in the placebo group (4).
- Dental Health. Children in a day care center who were given Lactobacillus GG for 7 months and examined for dental caries. The end result, children in the 3–4-year-old age group had significantly lower rates of dental caries and a reduced oral count of Streptococcus mutans (5).
1: Goldin BR, Gorbach SL. Clinical indications for probiotics: an overview. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Feb 1;46 Suppl 2:S96-100; discussion S144-51. doi: 10.1086/523333. Review. PubMed PMID: 18181732.
2. Allen SJ, Okoko B, Martinez E, Gregorio G, Dans LF. Probiotics for treating infectious diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;2:CD003048.
3. Guandalini S, Pensabene L, Zikri MA, et al. Lactobacillus GG administered in oral rehydration solution to children with acute diarrhea: a multicenter European trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2000;30:54-60.
4. Majamaa H, Isolauri E. Probiotics: a novel approach in the management of food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1997;99:179-85.
5. Nase L, Hatakka K, Savilahti E, et al. Effect of long-term consumption of a probiotic bacterium, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, in milk on dental caries and caries risk in children. Caries Res 2001;35:412-20.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research