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Benefits And Uses of Probiotics
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Benefits And Uses of Probiotics

Probiotics perform a wide range of functions important for maintaining good health. They can be particularly helpful in supporting digestive health. Probiotic supplements can be taken preventatively and are also often used to treat gastrointestinal problems.

So how do you know if you might benefit from a probiotic supplement? Signs of intestinal imbalance include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation and fungal overgrowth. Let's take a closer look at the benefits of probiotics and which conditions probiotics might be effective at helping treat.

 

1. Probiotics and Constipation

Constipation can be commonly treated with probiotics. Probiotics are specifically helpful in situations where constipation is caused by the improper or incomplete digestion of food. Such constipation is usually the result of imbalances in intestinal flora, and a probiotic supplement can help restore the imbalance. In this way, a probiotic may allow you to regain the ability to properly digest food.

 

2. Probiotics and Diarrhoea

At the other end of the scale, probiotics are also often indicated in the treatment of diarrhoea. Here they perform a dual role: firstly, a probiotic supplement can ensure that the gut flora remains healthy and well-balanced. This could speed up the return to normal defecation. Secondly, serious diarrhoea can cause the gut flora to become depleted, which can slow recovery. Supplementation of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus Plantarum seems to be particularly useful in treating diarrhoea. Traditionally, the Plantarum strain was administered alone, but modern best practice includes both Lactobacillus Plantarum and Lactobacillus Acidophilus for increased efficacy.

 

3. Probiotics for Gas & Bloating

Gas and bloating can often occur due to the improper digestion of foods in the stomach and intestine, and due to an overgrowth of a number of bacteria or a change in the type of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria often produce excess gas. Probiotics have been scientifically and clinically proven to improve intestinal health by promoting a healthy balance of good bacteria, and thereby reducing the harmful bacteria that produces gas and leads to bloating. To help reduce symptoms, ensure that Bifidobacterium strains are dominant in the human colon, as these are one of the most predominant cultures of ‘good’ bacteria that are found naturally. Lactobacillus acidophilis and Bifidobacterium lactis have extensive research individually and in combination in helping to improve intestinal health and digestive health (Liong 2007, Kopp 2001, Sinn D 2008).

 

4. Probiotics and Immune Support

The gastrointestinal tract functions as a barrier and immune system modulator. It is accepted that probiotics may directly or indirectly influence the host’s immune system. Recent studies show that probiotic strain B. Lactis enhances natural immune function by promoting the normalization of increased intestinal permeability, improving altered gut microecology, improvement of the immunologic barrier and alleviation of intestinal inflammatory responses, which produce a gut-stabilizing effect. Specific clinical trials using the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis show an effect on the faecal microbiota as well as improvements in immunological parameters in healthy adults. They are able to modulate unspecific cellular immune responses by increasing phagocytic (white blood cell) activity (Liong 2007, Isolauri 2001, Klein 2008).

 

5. Probiotics and Lactose Intolerance

Probiotics have also been shown to be effective in helping people with lactose intolerance minimise their symptoms. Lactobacillus acidophilus in particular has been shown to be greatly effective in boosting levels of the lactose-digesting enzyme, lactase, in the gastrointestinal tract. Bloating, cramping, flatulence and diarrhoea can cause substantial discomfort to those with lactose intolerance, forcing them to adopt restricted diets. There is currently no cure for lactose intolerance, but certain treatments are available to improve individuals’ tolerance of lactose. Probiotics are increasingly recommended as a method to help people with lactose intolerance better digest lactose.

Which Probiotic Should You Use?

Use our Probiotic cheat sheet to help you work out which probiotic is best for you.

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This article was provided by our online health partner Health365. For more information on nutrition and digestive health, visit www.health365.com.au.

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Osteoporosis is common in Australia, especially among middle-aged to elderly women. It is a condition where bone density reduces over time. Less dense bones are more porous and brittle, which greatly increases the chance of suffering breaks or fractures. Osteoporosis has no cure, but it is preventable. Following these 4 simple tips can reduce your risk of osteoporosis.  

1. Increase Calcium Intake

Calcium is the single most important nutrient for helping develop and maintain strong, healthy bones. Adult males need about 1000mg of calcium each day, and women need ~1300mg. Teenagers and breastfeeding women can need up to 1500mg a day... that is the equivalent of 5 glasses of milk. Eating a variety of foods can help you increase your calcium intake, but if you are specifically concerned about getting enough calcium each day, you may like to try a calcium supplement to top up calcium levels and give your bones the nutrition they need.  

2. Increase Vitamin D Intake.

Vitamin D increases the amount of calcium our body can absorb. There's no point in increasing your calcium intake if your body simply isn't effectively absorbing that additional calcium. Vitamin D is produced by our body when we get direct sunlight on our skin. If you don't spend time in the sun each day, you might like to try a Vitamin D3 supplement to top your levels up and support calcium absorption. Many calcium supplements already have added Vitamin D.  

3. Do Weight Bearing Exercise

There are several studies that show that weight bearing exercise (eg/ walking or running) can help increase / maintain bone density long term. But don't overdo it - other studies show that over-training can cause a drop in oestrogen in females. Low oestrogen levels are a risk factor for brittle, porous bones.  

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The University of Maryland Medical Centre website (www.umm.edu) notes that low vitamin K2 levels individuals have been found in individual with osteoporosis. It is thought that Vitamin K-2 helps calcium bind to bones... like vitamin D, vitamin K2 can help your body get more out of the dietary calcium that you are taking in. ------ This article is an excerpt from a longer Osteoporosis article by Health365.com.au. For more information on how to avoid osteoporosis, visit www.health365.com.au.
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