The thought of having a parasite residing in our intestinal tract, or anywhere else in our body can be frightening and repulsive. The truth is, we have a variety of parasites living in us and on us. However, some of them are actually beneficial, while others can be harmful.
Symptoms of intestinal parasites can include:
- Gas or bloating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Fatigue or weakness
- Weight loss
There are over 100 types of parasites that can live in a human host, such as hookworms, roundworms, pinworms, tapeworms, and giardia. These parasites are found in wild and domestic animals, and in well water. Exposure to these parasites can cause infection in humans, especially those who have weakened immune systems.
Some conditions that can promote parasitic infections can be excess mucous, an imbalance in the intestinal flora (beneficial bacteria), chronic constipation, and a toxic internal environment. The good news is probiotics may help protect humans against the unpleasant effects of intestinal parasites.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in our intestinal tract that help maintain the natural balance of microflora (organisms) in the intestines. It is believed that approximately 400 different strains reside in the intestinal tract where they help reduce the numbers of harmful bacteria, which can promote a healthy digestive environment.
The largest colony of probiotic bacteria in the small intestine is Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium primarily resides in the large intestine. It is believed that probiotics can be used to treat problems associated with the stomach and intestines.
Symptoms of decreased beneficial bacteria include:
- Vaginal yeast infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Gas and/or bloating
- Poor digestion
- Food allergies
Perhaps your doctor or someone else has suggested taking probiotics after taking antibiotics to help with replace the healthy bacteria that may have been destroyed.
The reason is, antibiotics kill the “beneficial” bacteria, as well as “bad” bacteria that can cause disease in the process by upsetting the intestinal balance that helps keep bad bacteria from getting a strong hold. Friendly bacteria can also be destroyed by:
- Poor diet
- Certain medications
- Chlorinated water
- A toxic environment
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium Defined
There are a variety of other probiotics that help keep a healthy balance of organisms in the intestinal tract. However, the primary residents are:
Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) is the most commonly used probiotic, or “friendly,” bacteria. You may be familiar with its use in yogurt. Such healthy bacteria inhabit the intestines and vagina and protect against the entrance and growth of “bad” organisms that can cause disease, which is accomplished through a variety of mechanisms.
Bifidobacterium are normal inhabitants of the human and animal colon. Newborns, especially those that are breast-fed, are colonized with bifidobacteria within days after birth. The population of these bacteria in the colon appears to be relatively stable until advanced age when it appears to decline. These bacteria are often influenced by a number of factors, including diet, antibiotics, and stress. (1)
The word probiotics comes from the Greek language meaning “for life”. They are defined as live microorganisms that benefit the host by improving the balance of the intestinal microflora, as previously mentioned. Their use has been documented as far back as 6,000 years ago.
“Elie Metchnikoff, the father of modern immunology, spoke highly about the possible health benefits of the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus in his writings at the turn of the last century.
He wrote in his book, The Prolongation of Life, that consumption of live bacteria in the form of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus…was beneficial for gastrointestinal health, as well as for health in general and longevity.” (1)
It has only been in the last 20 years that conventional medicine has began to scientifically study these friendly bacteria through the use of probiotic supplements.
1. Thomson, PDR for Nutritional Supplements. New Jersey: Thomson PDR 2002; 377
Content on this blog is for reference purposes and is not intended to substitute for advice given by a physician, pharmacist, or other licensed health-care professional. You should not use this information as self-diagnosis or for treating a health problem or disease. Contact your health-care provider immediately if you suspect that you have a medical problem. Information and statements on this blog regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.
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