More than 60 million Americans suffer from digestive ailments and are routinely plagued with symptoms that range from uncomfortable to debilitating. Since the colon is the largest organ in the immune system, good digestion is essential for vibrant health.
Stress, sedentary lifestyles, environmental toxins, poor eating habits, and excessive use of antibiotics can wreak havoc on the intestinal tract. One way to boost your digestive health is to incorporate probiotics into your daily regimen.
The term “probiotics” stems from the Greek phrase meaning “for life.” Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that occur naturally in the digestive tract. These “good guys” help the body digest foods by breaking them down into components we can use such as fats, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Probiotics also limit the growth of harmful bacteria (like salmonella and e-coli) that can cause diarrhea, flatulence, nausea, inflammation, and malnutrition. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that taking a probiotic when you are on antibiotics can reduce your risk of diarrhea by as much as 60 percent.
Health care researchers have found probiotics in food or in supplements may help the following conditions:
- Impaired nutrient absorption
- Infections caused by bacteria
- Lactose intolerance
Although probiotics have gained a lot of attention in the past decade, they have been used for thousands of years. Cultured dairy products, such as fermented milks, have been associated with long life for centuries.
Probiotics are found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and also in miso, soy beverages and in some juices. Because most modern diets don’t contain enough cultured products to maintain a healthy balance of micro flora, many people use probiotic supplements. The supplements are available in capsule, tablet, or powdered form. Be sure to read product labels and make sure the probiotic you select has “active live cultures” such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium. (The supplements can be safely used by people who are lactose intolerant.)
While the supplements provide strong support for digestive health, it is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat plenty of fiber from foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Keep fatty foods to a minimum and make sure your daily diet includes plenty of leafy greens and other fresh vegetables. Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods. Eat organic food whenever possible to limit the quantity of toxins that have to be processed by your body. Exercise, stress management, and proper rest are also important.
From the time we are children we are told to “listen to our gut response” when pondering a decision. Take that advice literally and keep your digestive system functioning properly so that you can enjoy a lifetime of radiant health.