Bacteria and yeasts are tiny organisms that are greatly feared because of their association with diseases and sickness. However, you may be surprised that our body is made up millions of bacteria called the normal flora that instead of causing harm, protect and help our body out in various processes. Many foods and supplements contain such “good” bacteria, and are called probiotics. Its primary role is suggested in its name – “pro”, meaning promoting and “biotic” indicating life.
The various functions of the normal flora that line the gut include digestion of fats and proteins from food, and metabolism of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. They line the gut wall and do not provide space for infectious bacteria to attach and infect the body; thereby, promoting the body’s defense mechanism. When the ratio of good and bad bacteria inverse, the latter can take over in number and space, and hamper the body’s normal functions. This can happen through the influx of such bacteria in the foods that you eat or after a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Along with the destruction of disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics can also destroy the normal flora, making room for harmful bacteria. This is when probiotics come into play.
Probiotics, introduced in the form of foods or supplements, can restore the normal balance of the flora, in turn resolving the damage and complications caused. Some of the common foods that are rich in probiotics include yogurt, unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso found in miso soup, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread, buttermilk, sour pickles and fermented soybeans (tempeh).
Some of the common health benefits of probiotics include:
- Replenishing normal flora of the gut after antibiotic treatment and in turn preventing diarrhea
- Reduce symptoms of flatulence and bloating associated with irritable bowel disease (IBS)
- Reduce symptoms of flatulence, diarrhea and stomach cramps associated with lactose intolerance
- May help treat pouchitis, inflammation and complications associated with the treatment of ulcerative colitis, which involves the removal and replacement of a part of the bowel
- May help maintain urinogenital health and prevent female problems such as yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infection.
At Greater Houston Gastroenterology, we provide specialized services and treatments for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions. Our dedicated clinical staff and physician assistants are available to assist in delivering high-quality treatment and expert care. As the largest GI group in the greater Houston area, we offer 17 locations for your convenience.