Posted by Puteri | 12/11/2007 09:46:00 AM | | 0 comments »

CHICAGO - Bugs in baby food? Microbes in your milkshake? Relax, this is not the latest tainted food scare — it's a growing trend in foods designed to boost health, not make you sick.

These products contain probiotics, or "friendly" bacteria similar to those found in the human digestive system.

There are supplement pills, yogurts, smoothies, snack bars and cereals, even baby formula and chocolate. Sold by major names like Dannon and Kraft, they're spreading like germs on grocery store shelves and in supermarket dairy cases.

And they come with vague health claims of "regulating your digestive health" or "strengthening your body's defenses.

Full story here.

So what exactly are probiotics?

According to WebMD, probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.

The only probiotic supplement I have taken before is Acidophilus. I thought it would help with my constant gas problems caused by certain foods. Anyway, I never did finish that bottle of Acidophilus that I bought. The product its long past is expiry date.

Since learning of the potential health benefits of probiotics, I am giving it another look. According to WebMD, research has shown that certain probiotics may restore normal bowel function and may help reduce:

* Diarrhea that is a side effect of antibiotics.
* Certain types of infectious diarrhea.
* Inflammation of the ileal pouch (pouchitis) that may occur in people who have had surgery to remove the colon.

These results suggest that eventually probiotics may also be used to:

* Help with other causes of diarrhea.
* Help prevent infections in the digestive tract.
* Help control immune response (inflammation), as in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

I have seen Dannon Activia ads and the yogurt, which contains probiotics, is supposed to help with constipation and bloating problems. Since I am lactose intolerant I do not know if the product is going to help me or not. But I am willing to give it a try.

Gary Huffnagle in his book "The Probiotics Revolution" calls probiotics "a new essential food group".

Sarah Wernick who wrote a review of the book says the book details breakthrough discoveries to

* Improve overall health
* Enhance immune function
* Curb inflammation
* Fight chronic bowel diseases
* Prevent and relieve allergies and asthma
* Counter antibiotic side effects
* Eliminate yeast infections
* Plus new evidence that probiotics may help fight cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia - and even obesity.

After reading that review by Sarah Wernick, I think I am going to get that book, and read it for myself. I am always interested in natural ways to keep myself more healthy!