I'm often asked about some of the things I do to stay healthy. Besides eating a nutritious diet, avoiding toxins as much as possible and making sure I exercise daily, I have made probiotics part of my personal health regimen.
The over-prescribed use of antibiotics and other medications, as well as junk food diets, has lead to a greater understanding about the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Over the past several years, there has been increasing interest in probiotics, especially among women.
I recently asked Dr. Lawrence Rosen, pediatrician and medical advisor to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology, to answer a few questions about why probiotics have become so popular, and are some probiotics better than others.
Q. We hear a lot about probiotics - what are they?
DR: Probiotics, literally "for life," are live organisms that colonize our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts beginning with the process of birth. There are many different strains - some are bacteria and some are fungi - and just as with harmful, pathogenic germs, each has a different "personality" or mechanism of action. These are the "good" bacteria that our intestines need to fight infection and maintain a healthy immune system.
Q. What role can probiotics play in a person's overall health?
DR: We are still learning about the many roles probiotics play. Best understood is how they function in the GI system. When we have normal types and amounts of organisms - the good bacteria - in our intestines, digestive function is preserved. Disturbances in probiotic colonies can lead to pain and other symptoms, like diarrhea, constipation and nausea. Dysbiosis is the term to describe abnormal growth of microbial flora - bad bacteria - in the digestive tract. It results often from gut inflammation caused by environmental insults - viruses or antibiotic exposure, for example. Research has demonstrated that by replenishing normal probiotics we can alleviate dysbiosis and lead to improved GI function.
Q. What types of foods contain probiotics?
DR: The most commonly known foods containing probiotics is yogurt and fermented foods that contain live, beneficial microbes such as Kombucha tea, buttermilk, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, Kim Chi, and brewer's yeast. One of the issues with food is that the amount and types of probiotics vary tremendously and freshness is crucial to preserving the potency in these foods. Some research has demonstrated that certain types of probiotics may be more effect than others in specific circumstances.
Q. Are they safe for pregnant women? Children?
DR: Yes, in almost all cases. Studies in these populations have demonstrated both safety and efficacy in most circumstances. Research in pregnant women has shown positive benefits for reduction of allergic disorders in their infants as well as reduction in gestational diabetes. In children, probiotics have been shown to reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea.
Q. What are the top 3 reasons to take probitotics?
DR: The top three reasons today, based on evidence, (1) prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, (2) prevention and treatment of infectious diarrhea, and (3) treatment of irritable bowel syndromes including dysbiosis associated with chronic bowel problems.
I have made probiotics an important part of my daily routine because they boost the immune system and create a healthier digestive system. I personally like Inner-Eco, a dairy free liquid probiotic made from coconut water containing trillions of cultures per serving, and Kirkman Labs Super Pro-Bio capsules.
Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com