Probiotics are live microorganisms the majority of which is made up of “healthy” bacteria. Bacteria naturally live in the intestinal tract, including the large intestine known as the colon. Intestinal health depends on a healthy balance between the good and bad bacteria. Taking probiotics is a way to help regulate colon health whether the balance has been upset by medications or to simply maintain a healthy digestive system.
Probiotics can be used to treat intestinal tract disruptions caused by medications and diet, or they can aid in treating a variety of intestinal issues from indigestion to irritable bowel syndrome to lactose intolerance. Colon-related diseases, including colon cancer, have been shown to be caused primarily by colon inflammation. Some studies suggest that probiotics have been successful in keeping ulcerative colitis in remission as well as a recurrence of Crohn’s disease due to their ability to reduce colon inflammation.
Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis consist of these healthy probiotics. Fermented dairy such as yogurt, certain cheese and buttermilk are good sources of probiotics. Onions, fermented cabbage, artichokes and bananas are also good choices for probiotic health. Foods with the label “Live Active Cultures” are the best to ensure you are getting probiotics in your diet.
Supplements can also be used to as a way to add probiotics to your diet. This can be a good way to determine which strain of probiotic you are putting into your system. Different strains have different benefits.
Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are three common strains known to treat and prevent common ailments of the colon and digestive tract such as indigestion, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and bowel inflammation. In addition, Northwestern Medicine recently published information concerning the treatment of colon cancer with the probiotic strain known as Lactobacillus acidophilus, showing that this could help reduce colon inflammation, enhance the functional immune cells and calm over stimulated immune cells. Studies have also shown that the same strain can help with reducing recurrent colon polyps, a common cause of colon cancer.
While clinical studies have not shown that probiotics are unsafe, people should be aware that supplements can contain different strains of probiotics which will affect each person differently. Probiotic supplements should not be used as a substitute for traditional medicine. Also, people with suppressed immune systems should always check with their doctors before taking these supplements as they may cause further illness.