August 26, 2013
A significant percentage of the population experiences gastrointestinal symptoms that are severe enough to make their life unpleasant, symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or abdominal cramping. Estimates are up to one out of five people are troubled by these symptoms. Some people experience them on a daily basis – at work, at home, at school, at social events and are inconvenienced and embarrassed by them. Many have sought medical attention and may have undergone a few x-rays or procedures to find out what’s wrong – and nothing was found. That’s the nature of functional bowel symptoms, you can’t always put a name on them but that doesn’t make living with them any easier.
Sometimes these symptoms begin after a bout with GI disturbances caused by a virus or bacteria and never fully go away. In this case, it’s possible that an overactive immune response due to a harmful action, a bacterial toxin or some other etiology damages the intestinal lining and increases its permeability. There’s also some evidence that “bad bacteria” play a role. People who experience these symptoms may have an imbalance in their gut bacteria that predisposes them to functional gastrointestinal problems. After GI disturbances, it’s not uncommon for the population of bacteria that live in the gut to be altered and replaced with bacteria that produce gases like methane that contribute to bloating and flatulence. To make matters worse, some forms of GI disturbances are treated with various drugs. This further throws off the balance of good and bad bacteria. When good bacteria dominate, it leaves room for less friendly bacteria to take up residence.
One possible way to help gain healthy function is to recolonize the intestinal tract with “friendly” probiotic bacteria. These bacteria may help in a number of ways – by helping to crowd out methane-producing bacteria and by helping to alter gut motility – how quickly food moves through the digestive tract. So many factors can alter gut bacteria and create an unhealthy balance including medications, eating a poor diet, medical conditions, stress and the aging process. Probiotics offer a way to maintain a healthier balance of gut organisms and, possibly, reduce functional gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, occasional diarrhea, cramping and constipation. Probiotics are a safe way to colonize the intestinal tract with good bacteria. They can be part of an overall plan for better digestive health. In addition, most people tolerate probiotics well and they have an excellent safety profile. It’s a natural approach to better intestinal health.
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