Microscopic 'good guys' do a world of good

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Probiotics are microorganisms intentionally introduced into the body for their beneficial qualities.

At first it seems strange to put bacterial microorganisms into the body when so much has been said and done to destroy bacteria in the body.

But, yes, it turns out that these certain “bugs” are actually good for us.

The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide tells us there are more than 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species that inhabit a normal healthy bowel.

What they actually do is to help maintain the natural balance of other organisms — collectively called microflora — as well as to maintain chemical balance in the intestines.

Controlled trials have shown that certain lactobacilli may help to control cases of infectious diarrhea as well as to help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and even Crohn’s disease.

They also seem to aid digestion and even the production of certain nutrients, as well as aiding in the absorption of nutrients..

When the science of probiotics first appeared in the literature, some folks thought that these good guys ate the bad guys. Not true. The good guys are mostly organisms that secrete a chemical called lactic acid. This chemical simply discourages the growth and multiplication of other — mostly harmful — bacteria.

You may recall my writing that a new strain of bacteria called E. coli 0157H7 can actually kill you if it manages to take over in the intestines.

It does that by secreting some pretty harmful toxins that can destroy the kidneys, among other things. As it happens, the first thought of medicine was to give the patient antibiotics. This was definitely the wrong approach since 0157H7 is resistant to antibiotics, and it actually made the matter worse by killing off any good bacteria that might offer competition.

Way back when this harmful bacteria first appeared, and antibiotics simply did more harm than good, it became obvious that another approach was needed. The new concept soon became “make it difficult for the harmful bacteria to reproduce.”

The answer was … voilà! Feed good bacteria!

In fact, it makes good sense to reestablish the good bacteria during and after any oral antibiotic therapy.

It seems as though probiotics may be useful with women’s urogenital health. Women’s systems can be thrown out of balance by any number of things such as spermicides, antibiotics and even birth control pills.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, yogurt is an acceptable treatment for vaginosis by restoring normal acidity and vaginal flora without side effects.

Even during pregnancy, this may be preferable to any other therapy. Yeast infection and urinary tract infections are also helped.

And let’s not forget kefir, an ancient fermented milk drink that’s also another lactobacillus probiotic.

Where yogurt needs to be reintroduced in the diet every several days to achieve best results, the benefits of kefir seem to last longer due to the fact that kefir “colonies” called “grains” can actually remain attached to the intestinal walls and reproduce more beneficial bacteria as the person consumes more milk lactose.

Flavored kefir can be bought in most groceries or health food stores. And by the way, it is delicious!

Walla Wallan Frank Trapani is a retired chiropractic doctor whose background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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