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How probiotics can help with digestive issues

June 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many diseases are caused by the spread of bad bacteria, but there are billions of other kinds of bacteria that could do your body a lot of good.

Adam Jonas has colitis. To help with his gut problem, he takes a capsule full of bacteria every day. Jonas said he was really low on certain levels of good bacteria.

"It's new to hear doctors prescribing bacteria," said Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, an integrative medicine physician who did just that for Jonas.

Called probiotics, they can be found in yogurt. The doctor says they help the body produce vitamins, pain-relieving substances, and can improve digestion.

"They're friendly bacteria, beneficial bacteria," said Plotnikoff.

But sleep problems, surgery, stress, even antibiotics hurt the balance of good bacteria in your belly.

"Forty million Americans suffer from chronic gut distress. Simply just taking probiotics can help a large number of people," said Plotnikoff.

They're helpful for most, but critically ill patients with immune system problems should steer clear of probiotics. Also, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate probiotics for over-the-counter use. If you take them, the doctor says make sure they have at least 20 billion colony forming units or CFUs per capsule, and only wash them down with filtered or bottled water.

"City water has chlorine in it to get rid of bacteria," said Plotnikoff.

Heat can also kill probiotics, so avoid coffee, tea or hot foods for at least 30 minutes before or after taking one.

The doctor suggests taking it before going to bed at night.

Probiotics are available over the counter. Concerns have been raised about the quality of probiotic products. Some products have been found to contain smaller numbers of live microorganisms than expected.


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