These days, more and more people are taking an interest in their health. This is not to say living healthier is a new phenomenon as many have sought to improve the quality of their life since life on earth began. However, the major difference today is that a great deal more research is being conducted into what constitutes living a healthier life. This is clearly evidenced in the very popular diet supplement market.
Among the many dietary products on the market, Probiotics have generated much interest thanks in larger part to the perceived health benefits they deliver. This does lead to an obvious question: what are probiotics?
In the simplest of terms, they are good for you! Now, let’s move onto a more detailed answer to what they exactly are….
Probiotics can be rather easily defined as microorganisms (Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Saccharomyces Boulardii are the most important ones), found in fermented foods or yeast which are absorbed into the body via food or supplements and can greatly enhance a person’s health to a significant degree. This may seem quite odd on the surface since we often assume that bacteria are primarily the root of all negative things. This is not always the case as the answer to “What are probiotics?” reveals.
These probiotic microorganisms are known for their ability to greatly aid the digestive system. On the most basic of levels, improving the manner in which the body breaks down food certainly has scores of benefits associated with it. Most commonly, you will see a significant decrease in bowel related problems as would likely be the case when your digestive tract is performing at maximum efficiency. There are, however, other benefits that you can gain from acquiring the microorganisms in probiotics.
One major benefit would be the elevation in mood and energy you would gain. When the human body is bogged down trying to digest its food, a great deal of energy is unnecessarily expended. This can greatly drain energy levels which not only make the daily activities of life difficult; it also can contribute to depression and other psychological maladies. Among the other great benefits associated with probiotics would be the impact that they have on the immune system. Obviously, a strong immune system can be a great benefit to someone wishing to improve the quality of his/her life. When your immune system is strong, it can fight off the common illnesses and maladies that could even prove debilitating.
Where Probiotics Come From?
Probiotics can be acquired through a number of sources. The most common sources of these probiotics would be natural yeast and yogurt. Most people will acquire their probiotics from these sources as a regular part of their diet. However, there are those that may wish to avoid eating yeast and others may wish to purchase them in supplement form. These supplements are taken in capsule form and when taken as directed you will gain the benefits associated with them.
But, is there something on the market better than probiotics? There is a “competitor” to probiotics and it comes in the form of the similarly named Prebiotics.
What are Prebiotics?
In addition to asking “What are Probiotics?” you also should ask “What are Prebiotics?” There are similarities between the two as both are synergistic in nature and both have an impact on the digestive system.
Prebiotics are soluble fiber and they are not very easily digested so the colon needs to work a bit harder to process them. This is NOT a negative because those wishing to lose weight when on a diet high in soluble fiber will attest it works great for shedding excess pounds and they will also point out they gain a great deal of extra energy since their digestive system is not brutally taxed. One other major benefit to prebiotics would be the fact that they provide a great deal of nutrition to the probiotic flora. Flora health is critical for OUR health which is why it is so beneficial to take regular prebiotic supplements or ingest them in their natural form.
Which one of the two is better? Fact is, most people already have all the probiotics they need in their systems. It’s by nurturing them with the right prebiotics can they really see huge improvements in their digestive system.
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How Bacteria Boost the Immune System?
Bacteria has been our friend for thousands of years and is crucial in our survival!
Scientists have long known that certain types of bacteria boost the immune system. Now, Loyola University Health System researchers have discovered how bacteria perform this essential task.
Senior author Katherine L. Knight, PhD. and colleagues report their discovery in a featured article in the June 15, 2010, issue of the Journal of Immunology, now available online. Knight is professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
The human body is teeming with bacteria. In each person, there are about 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells. Bacteria live on skin, in the respiratory tract and throughout the digestive tract. The digestive tract alone is home to between 500 and 1,000 bacterial species.
While some bacteria cause infections, most species are harmless or perform beneficial functions, such as aiding digestion. These beneficial bugs are called commensal bacteria. One of the most important functions of commensal bacteria is boosting the immune system. Studies by other researchers have found that mice raised in sterile, germ-free environments have poorly developed immune systems. But until now, scientists have not known the mechanism by which bacteria help the immune system.
Knight’s lab studied the spores from rod-shaped bacteria called Bacillus, found in the digestive tract. (A
spore consists of the DNA of a bacterium, encased in a shell. Bacteria form spores during times of stress, and re-emerge when conditions improve.) Researchers found that when they exposed immune system cells called B lymphocytes to bacterial spores, the B cells began dividing and reproducing.
Researchers further found that molecules on the surfaces of the spores bound to molecules on the surfaces of B cells. This binding is what activated the B cells to divide and multiply. B cells are one of the key components of the immune system. They produce antibodies that fight harmful viruses and bacteria. The findings suggest the possibility that some day, bacterial spores could be used to treat people with weakened or undeveloped immune systems, such as newborns, the elderly and patients undergoing bone marrow transplants. In cancer patients, bacterial spores perhaps could boost the immune system to fight tumors. However, Knight cautioned that it would take years of research and clinical trials to prove whether such treatments were safe and effective.
Knight’s lab at Loyola is supported by two research grants, totaling $3.3 million, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Members of her research group are studying how intestinal microbes interact with the host and promote the development of the immune system. Knight also is principal investigator of a $963,000 NIAID training grant in experimental immunology that supports research stipends, supplies and travel to professional meetings for PhD. students in the basic sciences at Loyola.
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