There is plenty of bacteria in your gut and most of it is good. However, after a round of antibiotics, this good bacteria is destroyed with the bad. You may have recovered from your illness, but now you need the good bacteria back. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your intestines and contribute to a healthy gut. There are billions of species of good bacteria and they begin to repopulate in your gut as soon as you eat probiotic foods or supplements. As long as you have stopped taking antibiotics, the probiotics will start to take hold. Consult with your medical provider for any of your health concerns and before adding probiotics.
Probiotics are living micro-organisms which exert a positive health benefit when you eat them. According to "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," some of the most common probiotics belong to the species Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces. Probiotics have been used anciently; the name "pro" means "for" in Latin and "biotic" means "life." Antibiotics are made up of the two Latin names: "anti" meaning "against" and "biotic" for "life." Probiotics are "for life" and antibiotics are "against life." Antibiotics have saved lives and have a valuable place in maintaining health. Probiotics ensure that good bacteria keeps your gut healthy. Once in the intestines, probiotics create an environment where good bacteria thrives and bad bacteria is less likely to stay alive.
Probiotics begin to work as soon as you start to add them to your diet. The World Health Organization recommends that you take probiotics daily to strengthen your immune system and get enough calcium. Most probiotics are fermented milk products such as yogurt that have added live bacteria. Probiotics help people with allergies, constipation, diarrhea, colon cancer and irritable bowel syndrome, according to the "Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology." Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the digestive tract. Probiotics help establish a layer of self defense from invading bad bacteria. The "Journal of Clinical Immunology" reported a study in which infants with eczema and allergies to cow's milk were treated with the probiotic, Lactobacillus GG. In one month of treatment, the good bacteria had repopulated and the infants had improved in both allergies and eczema.
How to Use Probiotics
You do not have to wait until your course of antibiotics is over before adding the good bacteria. Add healthy probiotic yogurts to your diet even while you are taking an antibiotic. Then continue to eat these foods high in probiotics. They continue to protect your gut and keep you healthy. This is especially important while traveling. A diet high in yogurt that supplies a broad range of probiotics helps protect you from traveler's diarrhea. Fermented foods are also a source of probiotic bacteria. Look for kefir, sauerkraut and Japanese foods such as miso and tempeh. Everyone will differ in the time it takes to repopulate good bacteria, depending on health and the strength of the probiotics.
You may have to add probiotic supplements to get the desired results. "Advance for Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants" recommends capsules that contain 5 billion mixed-strains with a guaranteed potency. Some patients may need to take supplements adding up to 25 billion organisms, up to three times per day to achieve therapeutic benefits, after illness or a long course of antibiotics. Always look for high quality probiotics and check the expiration date.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The intestine and its Microflora are Partners for the Protection of the Host: Report on the Danone Symposium “The Intelligent Intestine”
- The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Probiotics: A Novel Approach in the Management of Food Allergy
- msnbc.com Today Food: Getting Enough Good Bacteria in Your Belly?
- Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology: Coming full circle: From Antibiotics to Probiotics and Prebiotics
- Advance for Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants: Gut Flora on a Crusade for Good
- The Annals of Pharmacotherapy: Bacteria for Breakfast