These Bugs Make You Better | Reader's Digest

These Bugs Make You Better

Probiotic bacteria love your guts.

By Dean Ornish | MD from Reader's Digest | June 2007

Here are a few ways these healthy bacteria can help heal you.

Easing diarrhea
Studies show that certain probiotics may shorten the course of infectious diarrhea by 60%.

Preventing infection
Like the gut, the vagina contains bacteria in a dynamic equilibrium, which is one of the reasons women often have vaginal infections after taking antibiotics. Spermicides and birth control pills may also disrupt this ecology. Ingesting certain probiotics could help prevent infections.

Soothing the stomach
Probiotics may help people with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

More benefits
The good bacteria help prevent some allergic reactions. Preliminary research suggests that in children, probiotics reduce the risk of eczema, and animal studies show tumor-preventive action. They even have some antioxidant properties, which may help fight harmful inflammation.

How to get them
The easiest way is to eat a few servings a week of live-culture yogurt. Supplements are another option, though they vary in quality and potency.

Probiotics cause no serious side effects, but some people notice increased flatulence. Check with your doctor before trying them, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing or have a weakened immune system. She can tell you which ones are best for your condition.