If you haven’t heard about the idea of supplementing with probiotics--bacterial strains--the concept can be a little off-putting, especially in mainstream North American society which is generally fearful of germs. But probiotic supplements have been gaining popularity, earning the rank of third most popular natural product for both adults and kids in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.
So, in a society where anti-bacterial hand soap is everywhere, why are some people voluntarily popping pills that contain millions or billions of microbes?
First, it’s a little easier to understand when we understand that people have lots of bacteria living all over them, basically on every external surface and in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, it’s been estimated that there are ten times more bacterial cells than there are human cells in our bodies. Probiotic supplements are concentrations of the strains of bacteria that are present in healthy humans, taken by mouth to support a healthy microbial community, or microbiome, which in turn, can help us feel better.
Probiotics have been used by naturopathic doctors for decades for a wide range of conditions, and recent research has helped illuminate the science behind the efficacy of specific probiotic strains in the body, and it has verified a few conditions that probiotics can help.
There is evidence that probiotics are helpful in a whole host of cases related to GI health including:
We also know that probiotics have been used for immune modulation for conditions such as common colds, dental caries, urinary tract infections, sinus and ear infections, eczema and allergies. This approach is supported by research that details the relationship between gut microbiota and immune function. Lastly, probiotics have been shown to influence the gut-brain axis, suggesting a mechanism for their use in cases of anxiety, depression, autism, and ADD/ADHD.
While probiotics are gaining in popularity and scientific support for their efficacy, they are not for everyone, and not all strains have equal function in the body. Schedule an appointment to see if we can get you feeling better--there's a chance probiotics will be a part of your take-home treatment plan, and I can help you to figure out which ones will be best for you..