Probiotics-The "New" Guy in Medicine

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People all over the world have been consuming foods rich in beneficial bacteria (a.k.a probiotics) in the forms of fermented food and cultured milk products for centuries.   In America, the land of processed foods and refined sugars, we are just beginning to rediscover the multitude of health benefits these “friendly” bacteria give us.

My interest in probiotics began in earnest only recently.  Big Brother had a lot of food allergies when he was an infant and toddler.  Those food allergies eventually led to really itchy eczema.  Try what we would, the eczema kept coming back.  It was horrible to see bloody scabs on the back of our baby’s legs from where he’d scratch at night.

When Little Brother was fewer than two months old we discovered that he too had food allergies.  I was determined to be more informed this time around.  In my hours of “food allergy” searches I came across many mentionings of probiotics.  My interest was piqued.

So, just what are probiotics?

Most probiotics are similar to the healthy bacteria found in peoples’ gut, especially in that of a breastfed infant (breastfed infants have a natural protection against many diseases).  Most probiotics come from two groups: Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.  Within these groups are species and within the species are strains.  You can purchase over-the-counter probiotic supplements or consume foods such as yogurt that contain probiotics.

Here are some encouraging things I learned about probiotics:

Studies in probiotics are showing encouraging results:

  • To treat diarrhea (this is the strongest area of evidence, especially for diarrhea from rotavirus)
  • To prevent and treat infections of the urinary tract or female genital tract
  • To treat irritable bowel syndrome
  • To reduce recurrence of bladder cancer
  • To shorten how long an intestinal infection lasts that is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium difficile
  • To prevent and treat pouchitis (a condition that can follow surgery to remove the colon)
  • To prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children
  • To reduce the risk of acquiring common cold infections (with certain Lactobacillus strains)
  • To reduce the severity and duration of common cold infections (with certain Lactobacillus strains)
  • To reduce the risk of allergic disease in infants when the mother takes them during the prenatal period

Lastly, I learned that research on probiotics is still in its infancy.  Much is unknown concerning just how the bacteria interact on a molecular level with the gut and its bacteria.  Also very little is known concerning just how much and in what form is most beneficial in the administration of probiotics.  One thing that researchers do know is that effects from one strain of probiotic may not hold true for another.

Despite the infant state of the research it is clear that we should be friends with these friendly bacteria.  I’m sure as more research on probiotics is produced we will come to realize how much we have undervalued this simple key to our greater health.

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About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. Just make sure when buying probiotics you get the human strain version as most generic companies use animal strenghth(like in yogurt) really do nothing for us!
    My favorite is listed in my post from Genestra the HMF:
  2. Hey Mama Ash! Thanks for the comment and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to follow up. I did a bit more research after reading your comment, and from what I can find out (my findings can be referenced to scholarly research articles) is that while human strain probiotics are extremely beneficial and effective (for obvious reasons, I mean, we are human after all), plant and animal strains have also been proven effective in the treatment of various illnesses and diseases.
    Indeed, animal bacterial strains have been used for thousands of years in the form of cultured diary products like kefir (which my family loves to drink), leben, and dahi. In addition to human and animal strains there are also effective strains of plant origin which we consume when we eat raw fruits and vegetables.
    So yes, human strain probiotics are very beneficial in treating certain diseases and promoting wellness in certain areas, but plant and animal strains are just as necessary in treating other things. Wikipedia has a very nice table of the different strains of probiotic bacteria and what they have been shown effective in treating.
  3. i LOVE probiotics- i hope more people use them!
  4. won't help osteoporosis..which I got...dang. folks cut out soda because it leaches calcium from your bones and broken bones hurt. I should know.