Natural and man-made forces bombard our gastrointestinal tract. Each day, an internal war is waged as the beneficial microflora in our intestines are thrown out of balance. This carnage results from everyday living and various medical treatments on which we depend and that we take for granted. Stress, excessive alcohol, diets high in fat and meats, and large quantities of sugar, chlorine and fluorine so often found in our drinking water, are lifestyle weapons in this war. Bacterial dysentery and other forms of illness can also wreak havoc on the delicate balance of our intestinal flora. Ironically, pharmaceuticals, some medical treatments, and natural antibiotics that save our lives, also act as trigger-happy hired guns, indiscriminately killing our precious supply of beneficial bacteria. Radiation, anti-bacterial chemicals, antibiotics and even antacids change the pH balance of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, neutralize probiotic activity, and leave a war-torn environment in our intestines where pathogenic bacteria and yeast can flourish.
Fortunately, it is possible to maintain a healthy GI tract. Lifestyle choices play an important role. A conscious effort can be made to avoid the abuse and overuse of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics. Research has shown dietary supplementation of probiotics can help balance the friendly bacteria within our intestines.
The word probiotics means "for life." There are two kinds of probiotic bacteria: transient and resident. Transient or non-native microorganisms must be obtained from outside sources. Resident microorganisms are the organisms that live in the GI tract. Balanced levels of resident bacteria support proper digestion and help eliminate waste. Replenishing our supply of resident probiotics alleviates much of the stress on our immune system.
Acidophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus) and bifidus (Bifidobacterium bifidus) are two probiotic species naturally found inhabiting the GI tract. Acidophilus is essential for the absorption of nutrients in our food and makes its home in colonies one cell deep, along our small intestine, strengthening the intestinal wall. Acidophilus activates vitamin production, aids in lactose tolerance and food digestion, and helps reduce bad breath. Bifidus aids in the absorption of water from food, inhibits bloating and gas, and promotes healthy and effective elimination of waste materials.
Keith W. Sehnert, M.D. wrote The Garden Within - Acidophilus-Candida Connection, where he points out that it is "buyer beware" when it comes to selecting the best product. "Even now many people believe that if they eat yogurt they do not have to take acidophilus. I wish it were true! The commercial yogurt which sits on the grocery store shelves for days should not be considered as a source of acidophilus." He explains that homemade yogurt will provide acidophilus, but not enough. He recommends supplementation of DDS acidophilus from a vegetable source with 1 to 2 billion colony-forming units (CFU), and cautions consumers to research carefully before purchasing. Freshness is a very important factor.
Dr. Jeremija Lj. Rasic Ph.D., Novi Sad Institute, Yugoslavia, provides the following guideline to selecting probiotic supplements: "Incorporate only the declared species and desirable strains. Have a large number of viable friendly bacteria in concentrations of at least 1 billion per gram that are refrigerated in storage." The highest quality probiotic supplements contain live cultures and starter nutrients so these probiotics can be nourished and strong enough to establish a healthy population of friendly bacteria. These are simple methods to stop the war, end the skirmishes and maintain a peaceful digestive system.