(image thanks to bestofmotherearth.com)
Healthy people live in harmony with their “good” bacteria, or normal intestinal flora. This is called symbiosis. We provide the bacteria with a home and food, and in return they do some great things for us. These bacteria are called “probiotics.”
Although there are thousands of different bacteria, the best-known friendly bacteria are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacilli are also the bacteria that change milk into yogurt, and they are present in acidophilus milk. Bifidobacteria, which have been shown to provide many health benefits, are particularly high in the intestines of breast-fed newborns. A healthy intestinal system has more of both these friendly bacteria than other unfriendly bacteria.
One of the most important services good bacteria provide is preserving the correct balance of bacterial populations within the body. By their very presence they prevent the establishment and spread of “bad” bacteria and yeast, because harmful bacteria and yeast generally have no place to grow if friendly bacteria are thriving. You can never have too many of these great bacteria.
However, eating yogurt, drinking acidophilus milk or taking acidophilus supplements does not guarantee that you will have adequate colonies of good bacteria. Many people are so deficient in good bacteria that only larger doses will replenish the digestive tract, and often the presence of another bacteria or yeast/Candida must first be treated before good bacteria will be able to colonize and take hold. As well, many acidophilus products are woefully inadequate, and do little to replenish good bacteria.
The presence of good bacteria can be measured with a simple test. For more information on this type of testing please take a look at our DNA Microbial Profile page.
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.