Good Bacteria? Is there such a thing?

The average person has billions of microorganisms in and on their body. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, the number of microbial cells in the gut is estimated to outnumber the human cells by ten to one in healthy adults! Even though that may sound terrifying they can be a good thing; the good bacteria that is found in the gut, on the skin, and other areas of the body is essential for the immune system. In a healthy individual there is a balance between the individual and the bacteria that lives in and on them. Things such as antibiotics and unfriendly bacteria can offset that balance.

According to the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. Examples of the bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus GC. Thus, the use of the probiotics can aid in digestion and provide some protection against the unfriendly bacteria. The use of probiotics can range from treating diarrhea, prevent/treat urinary tract infections, or to help reverse the killing of friendly bacteria when taking antibiotics. 

Yogurt is probably the most popular food that contains the good bacteria. Activia is an example of a yogurt available at grocery stores that is specifically designed with a probiotic, more specifically Bifidus Regularis. In addition to yogurts, there are many supplementation products that are available today as well as creams and suppositories, however they are less popular.

Here is a list of some products available now:

Florajen – Visit here for a $2 coupon offer!

Culturelle – Visit here for $1 off!

Florastor

Align

Another word that has been thrown around lately is prebiotics which are substances that offer aid in allowing the good bacteria to grow. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as honey, onions, whole grains, bananas, artichokes and garlic.

Quick note: There is no governing body to regulate the quality of probiotics since most products are marketed as dietary supplements. Thus, the companies do not required FDA approval before marketing the product.

Final note, Even though the side effects of probiotics and prebiotics are rare, make sure they are right for you by checking with your doctor before supplementing.

Sources:
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/probiotics/AN00389

By: Amanda Johnson,University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, PharmD Candidate 2014

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