By Michelle Schoffro Cook for Care2.com
It may come as a surprise to learn that there are many reasons to love bacteria, but after pouring through medical journals, I found that there are at least 20 reasons to love health-supporting probiotic bacteria. They include:
1. Digestion and Nutrition
Certain types of bacteria help ensure that food is adequately broken down and that the nutrients are synthesized and absorbed by the body.
2. Anti-Toxic Effects
Probiotic bacteria help to ensure that toxins are not absorbed into the blood and at the same time, help keep harmful bacteria in check. This aids gut and immune system health.
Research by scientists at the Osaka University School of Medicine found that certain probiotics were effective in the treatment of nasal and sinus symptoms linked to allergies. Published in International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, the specific strains they found to be effective include: Lactobacilli casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, L. acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium longum.
Research conducted at the Yakult Central Institute for Microbiological Research in Tokyo, Japan and published in the journal Gut Microbes found that certain bacteria can reduce the inflammatory response in the body. Since inflammation has increasingly been linked with many chronic diseases, effective anti-inflammatories like probiotic bacteria may play an important role in the natural treatment of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and others.
5. Susceptibility to Colitis
Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada have linked susceptibility to this serious bowel disorder to the types and quantities of flora found in the intestines. Since supplementation of probiotics can positively influence the bowel flora, taking beneficial bacteria may play a role in the likelihood of developing colitis.
6. Celiac Disease
Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Immunology showed a significant improvement in immune-system markers in animals with celiac disease—an immune system disorder in which an individual is unable to digest gluten and/or gliadin, common components of many grains. Probiotic supplementation may aid in the treatment and management of celiac disease.
7. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Probiotic supplementation resulted in functional improvements in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, according to scientists at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Published in the June 2011 edition of the Medical Science Monitor, improved function was observed in participants within three months.
8. Breast Milk Nutrition
Scientists at the University of Turku, Finland published research in the European Journal of Nutrition that indicated improved nutritional quality in the breast milk of women who supplemented their diet with the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis and canola oil.
9. Anti-Viral Activity
Scientists at Sapienza University, Italy, found that the bacteria Lactobacillus brevis showed significant anti-viral activity against the herpes simplex type 2 virus. Their research was published in the May 2011 journal Anaerobe.
10. Anti-Aging Effects
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria can also act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are substances that reduce free radical damage in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that result from normal metabolic processes, harmful toxins, and other substances. They cause damage to otherwise healthy tissue in the body, depending on where they are found. Free radicals cause oxidative stress and have been linked to virtually all diseases and the aging process. They speed up aging and disease.
Studies show that probiotic bacteria lower negative immune system compounds called “cytokines,” not only in the gut, but also throughout the bloodstream. Cytokines are linked to anxiety and symptoms of depression, among other symptoms in healthy adults.
12. Colon Cancer
Research at the International University of Health and Welfare Hospital, Japan found that probiotic supplementation improved the bowels of people suffering from colon cancer. The scientists concluded that their findings “suggest the possibility of preventing colorectal carcinoma with probiotics.”
13. Brain Health
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Swedish researchers showed that oral administration of a strain of lactobacillus plantarum, resulted in a thirty-seven percent reduction in chemicals that mark oxidative stress in the body and are elevated in many brain and neurological diseases.
The bacteria helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori) that has been linked to stomach ulcers, have also been associated with a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease, among other health problems. At least four research studies demonstrate that various strains of probiotic bacteria can inhibit the growth of H pylori.
15. Liver Function
Research at the University Clinical Centre Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina found that probiotic supplementation improved the recovery of liver function after surgery for liver cancer patients.
16. Reduces Symptoms from Chemotherapy and Radiation
Scientists at the University of Alberta, Canada, found that probiotic supplementation may reduce the gastrointestinal (GI) complications linked to chemotherapy. Since GI complications can compromise the efficacy of chemotherapy, probiotic supplementation may play a role in improving the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments in people suffering from cancer. Additional research at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, Canada, found that probiotics aided in the prevention of diarrhea caused by radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
17. Anti-Cancer Effects
Scientists at Harvard Medical School found that Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria may induce tumour cell death in colon cancer cells. Published in Letters in Applied Microbiology, their research suggests a possible role for supplementation with L. acidophilus in the prevention or treatment of colon cancer.
18. Obesity and Overweight
Research in the journal Internal and Emergency Medicine indicated that probiotics may help balance the intestinal bacterial flora in humans, with promising preliminary results in the prevention and treatment of obesity and metabolic disorders.
19. Urinary Tract Infections and Other Infections
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and other types of organ and tissue infections may be helped through probiotic supplementation.
20. Your Body is Made Up of Bacteria
This is probably the most surprising reason to love bacteria: over one trillion bacteria of more than four hundred different species reside in your intestines. Actually, there are more micro-organisms found in your digestive tract than there are cells in your body.