Yes or No on Probiotics?

You've probably seen Jamie Lee Curtis (in her only slightly less amazing body) pushing yogurt with something called probiotics in it.

Now I'm a skeptic (stopped taking vitamins years ago) because I don't believe anything I read (or see) about miracle health cures.  Especially this.

But, according to newswise.com, it's not exactly all smoke and mirrors.  It's all about bacteria, good bacteria. The Web site interviewed Dr. Eamonn Quigley, an expert in gut health, who heads the gastroenterology and hepatology division at Houston Methodist Hospital, and he had a lot to say about probiotics, mostly good.

No, probiotics are not a magic bullet, he told newswise.com, "but those that contain live organisms may provide health benefits, like shortening the duration of a cold."  Another possible benefit? They can also help with common intestinal symptoms and decrease urinary tract infections in women, Quigley reports.

Now here's a winner: there's even some evidence that probiotics might help you lose weight (sure sounds like a magic bullet to me!). And they're even in our beauty products, like lotions, skin creams and cosmetics, and toothpaste, too.  But are they really helping us? Quigley said not all of them.  Further testing is still needed on many, he told newswise.com.

But what's the deal on Curtis' claims that they help keep your digestion on track? Quigley told newswise.com that "most of the valid products contain bacteria, such as Lactobacillus" (which can be found in the diet supplement Culturelle, and oddly, some dairy products in Finland, according to Quigley), and "Bifidobacterium, that already live in your gut and help keep you healthy and digest your food."

As for the health claims, "If you boost the populations of good bacteria in your gut, it makes sense that you’re not only improving your gut health, but also benefitting other aspects of your health linked to the gut – including your immune system," newswise.com quoted Quigley. "This is because the gut encounters foreign substances every day in the food we eat, making it a major line of defense against potentially harmful pathogens."

Not surprisingly, probiotics are used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, and may soon be used on other bowel and abdominal illnesses.

Hope you're not reading this over breakfast, but a final way probiotics come into play in your gut can be through fecal transfers.  That's right, doctors are now finding that stool is a "reliable source of healthy
bacteria," and have started using "healthy people’s feces to help restore the balance of bacteria."

As Quigley tells the Web site, "This certainly has the 'ick' factor, but fecal transplants are now curing some of the sickest patients," including those who have an almost untreatable gastrointestinal disease called C.diff, which can't be treated with antibiotics (and is probably at or coming to a hospital near you).


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