Not all bacteria are bad boys. For example, the bacteria in your gut help regulate digestion and prevent superbugs from taking over. It is well known that when taking antibiotics, gut bacteria are decimated. This in turn may lead to other bacteria taking advantage and causing nasty infections such as enterocolitis. Since antibiotics are overprescribed, the need for probiotics is huge. Studies have established that taking probiotics will help prevent such gut infections, especially after a course of antibiotics.
Just what are probiotics? These are user friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus, whose primary purpose in the universe seems to be to help humans digest food. There are many other species which are beneficial as well. These probiotics have also been shown to prevent vaginal infections in pregnancy.
A recent study showed some benefit in using these “nice” bacteria in treating the common cold and other respiratory infections. Among over three thousand trial participants (from 10 trials) whose ages ranged from infancy to the 40s, those who took probiotics suffered 12% fewer infections than those who didn’t. These trials by the way were double blinded, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking placebo and who was swallowing probiotics. Other findings included shorter duration of winter infections including colds and influenza.
The problem is that the older population-meaning those of us who think that 40’s are young- were not studied. Guess what? Older people have more infections because the immune system wanes with age. I am quite sure that such studies are forthcoming.
The theory is that these bacteria help the immune system by shoring up the lining of the gut, which would prevent adsorption of unwanted substances and by increasing the activity of cells which attack invaders. Whatever the reason is, there seems to be good reason to consider taking probiotics.
The downside is that the probiotics can cause gas and diarrhea., but these effects seem to be mild and self limiting.
Probiotics can be purchased as tablets are also found in yoghurt.