The idea of tossing down a few billion bacteria a day for your
health might seem—literally and figuratively—hard to swallow. But the
May issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that a
growing body of scientific evidence suggests that you can treat and
prevent some illnesses with supplements containing certain kinds of
health-promoting bacteria, called probiotics (meaning “for life”).
estimated 100 trillion microorganisms inhabit every normal, healthy
bowel, where they keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid
digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.
If these gut-dwelling bacteria become depleted—usually because of
disease, stress, poor diet, or medications like antibiotics—health
problems can result.
According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch,
probiotic therapy has been best studied for the treatment of diarrhea.
It may also help people with Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome,
and other gastrointestinal problems. Probiotics that help restore the
balance of microflora in the vagina may be useful in treating such
common female urogenital problems as bacterial vaginosis, yeast
infection, and urinary tract infection. More study is needed to know
which probiotic strains work best for which conditions.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests that people considering probiotics keep these points in mind:
recommended doses range from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming
units (CFU)—the amount contained in a capsule or two—several days per
- A daily supplement for one to two weeks may improve conditions such as infectious or antibiotic-related diarrhea.
microorganisms in probiotic supplements need to be alive when you take
them (or when they’re freeze-dried for capsules). They may die on
exposure to heat, moisture, or air. Some require refrigeration.
Also in this issue:
- Aspirin therapy for heart health
- Sleep and obesity
- 10 tips for improving memory
- A doctor answers: Is snoring bad for me? Is Zelnorm safe?