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Probiotics, Digestive Health, and Weight Loss
In working with our weight loss patients, we focus on several key factors including diet, lifestyle and current supplements they may be taking. One supplement patients ask about frequently is probiotics. What are they? Should they take a probiotic? Let’s take a look at what probiotics are and what role they play in the body.
Our digestives systems are loaded with over 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are live microorganisms considered to be the ‘healthy bacteria’. Probiotics help to maintain a balance in the digestive tract between the good and bad bacteria.
Researchers have only recently started looking into the benefits of probiotics, yet there is already encouraging evidence that probiotics may help:
• Treat diarrhea, especially following a course of antibiotics
• Prevent and treat urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections
• Treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Reduce the recurrence of bladder cancer
• Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
• Prevent and treat eczema in children
• Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
Some researchers even believe that probiotics may benefit the immune system and improve general health and wellbeing. In one study, a group of employees who were given a probiotic supplement missed less work due to respiratory or gastrointestinal illness than did employees who were not given the supplement.
Probiotics are normally found in foods such as milk, yogurt and fermented products such as miso, and tempeh. They can also be added as a nutritional supplement.
Probiotic supplements are particularly beneficial anytime you are prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately, which means they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. After a course of antibiotics, you may find yourself with an upset stomach, nausea, cramping or gas. Adding probiotics will help to replenish the healthy bacteria and help to combat these side effects.
Exciting new research suggests probiotics may aid in weight loss. Studies by Stanford researchers showed that patients who’ve had bariatric surgery lost more weight with the addition of probiotics to their diet. Studies in mice also show that the ratio of bacteria in the gut differs between larger and smaller mice. Let’s be clear, probiotics are not a magic pill for weight loss, but as a component of a comprehensive weight loss program they may play a significant role in helping you reach your weight loss goals.
July issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, John Morton, MD, Associate Professor of surgery at Stanford medical school