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Probiotics

Probiotics are bacteria that are good for you. In fact they are so good for you that we want you to eat these bacteria! Before you get totally grossed-out, just think that probiotics are the bacteria that turn milk into yogurt. Yum!

Probiotics are living microorganisms that live all over our body. They are supposed to be on us! They don’t cause us any symptoms and protect us from invading bacteria, funguses and viruses that cause illness. We have trillions of probiotic bacteria on our bodies, mostly in our intestines.

What can probiotics do for you?

1. They promote healthy digestion.

They can keep you from getting both constipation and/or diarrhea. They can benefit those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and those with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease.

2. They can boost immunity.

Much of our immune system is located in our gut. Many bacteria, fungi and viruses (including the cold virus) attack us from the food we eat. Having probiotics in our gut to support our immune system is important to fight off disease.

3. They can prevent a secondary infection in those who have just taken antibiotics.

Antibiotics kill off many good and bad bacteria. Probiotic supplements can repopulate your body with harmless, beneficial bacteria instead of bad, disease causing bacteria.

4. They can promote vaginal health.

Our vaginas have bacteria and yeasts present all the time. There is no way to get rid of all the microorganisms in the vagina, nor would we want to get rid of them.

In the healthy vagina there are many probiotic organisms, “the good neighbors”. We want plenty of them. They don’t cause symptoms and crowd out “the bad neighbors”, which consists of yeasts and those bacteria that cause odor and irritation if they grow out of control. The more good bacteria there are, the less of the symptom causing microorganisms there are. In women who get 2 or more vaginal infections per year that may either be Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) or Yeast infections, I recommend taking a probiotic supplement daily, just like a vitamin, to prevent getting such frequent infections. It works!

5. There are some studies suggesting that probiotics can affect our health in several other ways such as preventing gum disease, preventing seasonal allergies, preventing upper respiratory infections, colon cancer, and might even help with our metabolism.

How do I get probiotics? Which one should I take? How should I take them?

Probiotics are available in food such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and fermented soy products. These may have only limited amounts of probiotics compared to the calories you may be consuming.

To get the “most bang for your buck” you may want to consider a probiotic supplement. There are many, many supplements on the market. Some are cheap and some are expensive. Some are in capsules, some in powders. Some are room temperature and some are refrigerated. Some have one species of organism, some have many.

In general, you want to choose one that has at least 10 billion organisms per dose, has more than one species of organism, is not too expensive, and that you will remember to take daily.

I take one that has 14 billion organisms, 8 different species, is in capsules, that isn’t refrigerated (who can remember to take a pill that has to be stored in the fridge?) and costs about $12 per month. It seems to work well for me. I used to get 4-5 colds per year and since starting regular probiotics, I just got my first cold in 2 years and it only lasted for one week instead of my typical 2 week cold. I am a believer!

In my patients, I see women with several yeast infections per year go down to one or less per year. Does it work for everyone? No, there may be other factors at play, but I usually do see a measurable improvement in frequency of infections.

Can probiotics help me? Try them for 6 months and see!