Probiotics for Women
Probiotics for women Make friends with good bacteria:
If bad bacteria are ruling your digestive system, you could be setting yourself up for health problems. Keep reading so you can find out why probiotics for women is a necessity to our health.
by Cheryl Redmond |
AS MAY AS 500 SPECIES OF bacteria call your digestive system home. While you may be familiar with the unfortunate effects of bad bacteria–like vomiting and diarrhea–some bacteria are actually good for you. These beneficial bacteria are called probiotics, which means “for life.”
But that’s not all. Probiotics can do more for certain people. If you take antibiotics or have high cholesterol, for example, these good guys work to bring your body back into balance. Here we detail five reasons why you may benefit from adding probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are found in common foods like yogurt or in supplements;
to find the best sources to fit your needs, see “How Do I Get Probiotics?”
Reason 1: You Have High Cholesterol
THE PROBLEM: Too much cholesterol in your bloodstream leads to cardiovascular problems. Your liver uses cholesterol to produce bile, a substance that breaks up fats in your small intestine and makes them easier to digest. But most people have more cholesterol than their bodies need, especially if they eat a diet high in animal fats. This excess cholesterol finds its way into the bloodstream.
WHY PROBIOTICS WORK: Beneficial bacteria in your small intestine help break down your body’s bile and remove excess cholesterol, says James Anderson, M.D., a researcher at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
THE PROOF: A study in the Journal of Dairy Science in March 2000 showed a 17 percent improvement in the ratio of HDL (“good”) cholesterol to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in mice that were fed the probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri. Studies on humans show more modest results. Two clinical studies in the February 1999
Journal of the American College of Nutrition found a 2 to 3 percent reduction in blood cholesterol levels among subjects who ate a daily 7-ounce serving of yogurt enriched with L. acidophilus for four weeks.
Reason 2: You Suffer from Ulcers
THE PROBLEM: Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria transmitted orally through contaminated food or water, is
considered the cause of most intestinal and stomach ulcers, although exactly how this germ works isn’t known.
The toxins produced by this bacteria inflame your stomach lining.
WHY PROBIOTICS WORK: Most ulcer patients receive antibiotics for treatment. While this helps kill the bacteria that created the ulcer, it also lowers reserves of good bacteria. Taking probiotics while taking antibiotics can help keep your intestinal flora in balance and prevent antibiotic side effects like diarrhea. In addition, some strains of Lactobacillus have been shown to inhibit H. pylori.
THE PROOF: A handful of studies have been done on the use of probiotics plus antibiotics to treat ulcers. In a 2001 study in the journal Digestion, 60 people were treated only with antibiotics for H. pylori and another 60 people took antibiotics and L. casei GG (a specially designed strain of the probiotic L. casei). Those receiving
the probiotic supplement reported significantly less severe side effects from the antibiotics, including bloating, diarrhea, and taste disturbances, than the control group.
Reason 3: You Take Antibiotics
THE PROBLEM: Broad-spectrum antibiotics like tetracycline and ciprofloxacin, which has recently been in the news due to the anthrax threat, kill both good and bad bacteria throughout your body, leaving a vacuum where any surviving or newly introduced bad bacteria quickly proliferate. This can also allow yeast and fungi to gain a foothold in your digestive system and cause yeast infections or diarrhea.
WHY PROBIOTICS WORK: Beneficial bacteria adhere to the lining of your intestinal wall, crowding out the bad bacteria that survive the course of the antibiotics. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take probiotics while you’re taking antibiotics, says Sherwood Gorbach, M.D., a probiotics expert and researcher at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.
THE PROOF: Several clinical trials show that various good bacteria like L. acidophilus and L. casei and the beneficial yeast Saccharomyces boulardii (considered a probiotic) are effective in preventing and easing antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). In a study in the November 1999 Journal of Pediatrics, only seven of 100
children taking L. casei GG developed AAD; among the 100 children taking a placebo, 25 developed AAD. A previous study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology in March 1995 found a 51 percent reduction in AAD among patients who were given S. boulardii.
Reason 4: You’re Prone to Yeast Infections
THE PROBLEM: When the yeast Candida albicans, a normal and usually neutral inhabitant of your digestive tract, grows out of control, it manifests as a vaginal infection or a rash on your skin or in your mouth. Antibiotic use is a common cause of yeast infections, although factors like a high-sugar diet, frequent washing with harsh soaps, or use of birth control pills may contribute to Candida overgrowth.
WHY PROBIOTICS WORK: Species of Lactobacillus like L. acidophilus are the dominant inhabitants of a healthy vaginal tract. They release hydrogen peroxide to produce an acidic environment that kills Candida.
THE PROOF: Anecdotal evidence is strong, but only a few studies have tested probiotic use for yeast infections. A 1992 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine done on 33 women with chronic yeast infections showed that the incidence of infection decreased threefold after they ate a cup of acidophilus-rich yogurt daily for six months.
The findings are inconclusive because only 13 women completed the study. But it’s worth noting that eight participants didn’t complete the study because the next phase required them to stop eating yogurt, and they refused.
Reason 5: You’re at Risk for Traveler’s Diarrhea
THE PROBLEM: Traveler’s diarrhea typically results from bad bacteria entering your body when you eat or drink
contaminated food or water. Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Listeria produce intestinal problems like nausea and cramping, and Shigella causes the intense abdominal pains of dysentery. The severe diarrhea triggered by these invaders dehydrates you, reduces your absorption of nutrients, and destroys good bacteria.
WHY PROBIOTICS WORK: Daily doses of probiotics reduce your chances of traveler’s diarrhea if you start taking them a month before going abroad, according to Pamela Hannaman-Pittman, N.D., a naturopathic doctor at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Kenmore, Wash. Bifidobacterium bifidum produces acetic acid, which
inhibits the bad bacteria Shigella. And certain L. acidophilus strains can wipe out foodborne bacteria.
THE PROOF: In February 2001, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a review of studies involving probiotics and traveler’s diarrhea. Results were mixed; the best results were obtained when subjects consumed a combination of probiotics. For example, in a study of 94 Danish tourists, those people taking a
mixture of L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus thermophilus had about half the rate of diarrhea of those taking a placebo. Saccharomyces boulardii and L. casei GG have also shown benefits in previous studies.
RELATED ARTICLE: How do I get probiotics? (Getting Started)
For general well-being, rely on eating foods fortified with probiotics, says Sherwood Gorbach, M.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. But for specific health concerns like antibiotic-associated diarrhea, consider supplementing. Supplements contain probiotics in higher amounts and more potent strains than those available through food.
FROM YOUR FOOD
Fermented foods such as miso and sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and cheese contain beneficial bacteria. Look for unpasteurized products, and look for the words “live and active cultures” on your yogurt label. Also check to see how many kinds of bacteria are listed (L.acidophilus should be one of them). The more on the label, the better. Aim for two to three servings a day.
FROM YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
Probiotics come in pill, powder, or capsule form. Many experts recommend you buy brands that are refrigerated and/or dated. While a day’s dose should contain at least 1 billion bacteria (shown as [10.sup.9] on the label), many reputable brands offer 2 to 5 billion living organisms per dose. If you are taking supplements to treat an ailment or because you’re taking antibiotics, you can stop once the treatment is over and your symptoms do not reappear.
Cheryl Redmond is Natural Health’s associate food editor.
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