Are Probiotics the Answer to Your Troubled Stomach?

Debbie Melvin  |  7/30/2010 1:36:45 AM

People who suffer with stomach woes are looking for relief and apparently this applies to many people out there. Depending on the ailment, probiotics may come to your rescue. Though there is no legal term in the U.S., in other countries the term refers to live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, benefit the host.

Research is just beginning to uncover some of the health benefits of probiotics. The most compelling evidence is in the area of anti-diarrheal effect, stool regularity and gastrointestinal tolerance to antibiotic therapy.

The most popular fermented food supplying desirable microbes is yogurt. Not only is yogurt a nutrient dense food, but it is also an excellent source of calcium and protein. Yogurt with live active cultures helps reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance, so those unable to drink milk can get their calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Also, dairy foods actually protect the probiotic bacteria so they survive stomach acids and adhere to the lining of the intestinal tract.

The National Yogurt Association has established a special Live and Active Cultures (LAC) seal. These cultures must be present in the final product to carry this seal. This logo is the industry validation of the presence and activity of significant levels of live active cultures. Some products are heat-treated after fermentation, which destroys most of the good bacteria, so look for the seal on containers.

The key to reaping all the benefits of probiotics is the presence of the right probiotics in the right amounts. Unfortunately, so far it is not possible to accurately generalize a minimum dose needed. Additionally, not all bacteria present in products have a proven probiotic effect. Admittedly, these facts put consumers at a disadvantage in choosing probiotic products, especially since the LAC seal is showing up on products such as cereals, yogurt-covered snacks, granola bars, drink mixes and even infant formula. Adding to the confusion is the fact that companies can now gain proprietary use of bacterial strains, with an exclusive property right, like a patent or trademark. Just like naming and claiming a star in the sky, they have claimed ownership of certain strains of some proven probiotic bacteria, though the primary bacteria has demonstrated the effect.

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