Probiotics work to help maintain balance in the intestinal microbiota. By enhancing the intestinal flora, these microorganisms may have a larger effect in terms of keeping people in good health. Understanding the type and quantity of microorganisms in the gut has become a critical goal in the pursuit of overall wellness. Below are only 5 ways that probiotics have a profound impact.
Impact On Cold Symptoms
Doctors said earlier studies found probiotics reduce the number, severity, and length of colds in the old, young, the healthy sedentary, and in highly trained athletes, but that no research exists on health-conscious, physically active men and women. This study involved 465 healthy adults who regularly engaged in a range of physical activities from daily walking to competitive amateur athletics. Participants took a daily dose of Bifidobacterium lactis, with or without Lactobacillus acidophilus, while a third group took a placebo.
After 150 days from the fall through the spring, compared to placebo, those who took Bifidobacterium lactis were 27 percent less likely to have developed an upper respiratory tract infection. Also, the placebo group caught colds sooner, with the probiotics group healthy about three weeks longer. The group that took the combination of Bifidobacterium lactis with Lactobacillus acidophilus was able to be significantly more physically active than the placebo group.
Reference: Clinical Nutrition; published online 14 October 2013.
Effects When Taking Antibiotics
Antibiotics kill off good bacteria, altering the delicate balance in the gut. People in hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities who take antibiotics over the long term can suffer severe diarrhea when bad bacteria, known as Clostridium difficile or C. diff., grow unchecked. In this review of 23 studies, 4,213 adults and children in health care facilities who were taking long-term antibiotics took probiotics, a placebo, or no treatment. After 30 days or less, those who had taken probiotics were 64 percent less likely to have developed diarrhea compared to placebo or no treatment.
Reference: Cochrane Database SystRev. 2013 May 31; 5: CD006095
Babies that suddenly start crying, often after feeding, may have different gut bacteria than babies without colic. To explore this idea, doctors reviewed 12 probiotics studies covering 1,800 infants with colic and found mixed, but positive, results. Half the studies found probiotics reduced crying; three of five placebo-controlled studies found probiotics effective in breast-fed infants, and one study found probiotic benefits for infants fed formula. In three small pilot studies, the probiotic L. reuteri reduced crying time. Doctors said evidence is still insufficient to support using probiotics to manage or prevent colic, particularly in formula-fed babies, but probiotics may be effective in breastfed babies.
Reference: JAMA Pediatrics; October, Dec 1;167 (12):1150-7
Some people inherit the tendency to overreact to environmental allergens, overproducing antibodies. Doctors analyzed 25 studies involving 4,013 allergen-sensitive people and found that those whose mothers took probiotics while pregnant, or newborns who got probiotics right away, had much lower levels of antibodies, a sign they were less sensitive to allergens. A mixture of probiotics seemed to offer the best protection, especially in highly sensitive infants, and the longer newborns took probiotics, the lower the level of antibodies. Discussing their findings, doctors suggested new studies of specific probiotics, and longer follow-up times in infants to optimize the benefit of probiotics.
Reference: Pediatrics 2013; 132: e666-e676
Benefit Those With Diverticulosis
In diverticulosis, the intestinal lining weakens, forming pouches that bulge outward. Symptoms can include constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain. In one study, 45 men and women with diverticulosis, average age 63, took 10 mL of Lactobacilli acidophilus (providing 37.5 million CFU) and bifidobacterium (providing 1.48 billion CFU) three times per day. Symptoms subsided during the study, and after six months, 68 percent of participants were still completely symptom free, with 78 percent of all participants saying probiotics were effective, or very effective, in reducing symptoms compared to the beginning of the study.
Reference: European Journal of Internal Medicine; 2010, Vol. 21, No. 4, 320-3