What’s right for those with weakened immune systems?
Interest in probiotics in general has been growing. Americans are spending money on probiotic supplements and food, and the numbers have nearly tripled over the last decade.
The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." Microorganisms are tiny living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts that can be seen only under a microscope.
Probiotics are available in foods and dietary supplements such as capsules, tablets, and powders and in some other forms as well. Examples of foods containing probiotics are yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, and some juices and soy beverages. In probiotic foods and supplements, the bacteria may have been present originally or added during preparation. Thousand Oaks Hospice
How are Probiotics used for health purposes?
There are several reasons why people are interested in probiotics for health purposes. As we age, our immune systems weaken, making us more vulnerable to illness. In addition, those with chronic conditions are more at risk for picking up “bad bacteria,” and becoming ill.
First, the world is full of microorganisms, including bacteria, and is present in people's bodies. Microorganisms are in and on the skin, in the stomach and intestines, and present in other body orifices.
Friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protection against microorganisms that could cause disease, and to the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.
Each person's mix of bacteria varies. Interactions between a person and the microorganisms in his or her body, and among the microorganisms themselves, can be crucial to the person's health and well being.
This bacterial "balancing act" can be thrown off in two major ways:
By antibiotics, when they kill friendly bacteria in the stomach or intestines along with unfriendly bacteria. Some people use probiotics in an effort to offset side effects from antibiotics such as gas, cramping, or diarrhea. Some people use probiotics to ease symptoms of lactose intolerance, a condition in which the stomach lacks the enzyme needed to digest significant amounts of the major sugar in milk.
"Unfriendly" microorganisms such as disease causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites can also upset the balance. Researchers are exploring whether probiotics may halt these unfriendly agents in the first place and/or suppress their growth and activity in conditions like:
Infectious diarrhea; irritable bowel syndrome; inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease; tooth decay or periodontal disease; vaginal infections; stomach and respiratory infections and skin infections.
Another part of the interest in probiotics stems from the fact there are cells in the digestive tract connected with the immune system. One theory is that if you alter the microorganisms in a person's intestinal tract by introducing probiotic bacteria, you can affect the immune system's defenses.
Many baby boomers and their elderly parents are taking probiotics as a way of maintaining their current health, as well as a way to prevent illness.
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