Diarrhea can show up at the most unsuspected times and places, often without warning or obvious cause. Yes, there are over the counter “flow stoppers” available which may work for a while for some but do nothing to heal the condition.

Some basic causes of this embarrassing stuck-within-ten-feet-of-the-toilet condition are: stress, illness, food and water that is contaminated by harmful microbes.

The majority of diseases and infections enter the body through the bowel. Studies indicate that bacterial imbalances are associated with irritable bowel syndrome, post-surgical infections and type 1 diabetes.

It took the medical profession a long time to discover that antibiotics destroyed the beneficial bacteria as well as the harmful ones, thus making the body more prone to secondary infections.

The bacteria in your gut have many functions in the body and are essential to your health. These microorganisms are collectively called your gut flora, micro flora, or beneficial bacteria and are estimated to make up about 3 pounds of your body weight. They fight off harmful microbes (pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites), which cause disease.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that a lack of healthy bacteria can be one of the causes that lead to medical problems such as: food allergies, bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, intestinal infections, allergies, asthma, genital infections, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, recurrent ear and bladder infections, and antibiotic associated diarrhea.

So then, what can you do to ensure that your bowel is armed with more good bacteria than bad ones? The best way is to take a dose of friendly microbes, known as probiotics.

"By definition, a probiotic is any substance containing live organisms that, when ingested, have a beneficial effect on the host by altering the body's intestinal micro flora," says physician Robynne Chutkan, Associate Professor of Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Many probiotics are lactic acid, or milk based, bacteria, such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, but not all probiotics have the same characteristics and, presumably, not the same efficacy. Are you lactose intolerant? Well, they reportedly even improve lactose intolerance! Besides, probiotics are not released in the stomach but travel through the digestive tract and attach themselves to the large bowel (gut). After four days of regular daily intake there are enough probiotics in your gut to start producing health benefits. Many species of bacteria work together in the human gut to maintain its normal function.

Known benefits include relief from irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections and diarrhea. Furthermore they may improve bowel function, reduce antibiotic-associated infections, prevent colon cancer, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improve immune function, reduce inflammation, improve mineral absorption, prevent growth of harmful bacteria, fight off diseases like candida and eczema, and much more.

The scientific concept behind probiotics is now accepted, but clinical trial work has only recently started to test the ability of probiotic preparations to prevent or treat specific diseases, like gut inflammation, gut infection or cancer.

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and function of certain good bacteria in the gut. Similarly, eating foods or supplements containing probiotics improves the ratio of good bacteria to bad in the gut. Some foods that are good for your gut health beside yogourt, are asparagus and leeks.

Both prebiotics and probiotics may help change poor eating habits, heal ulcers, chronic stomach inflammations and infections of all kinds, including uro-genital tract, respiratory and childhood bugs acquires in daycare. Beside all those, they are said to reduce blood lipids (fats), treat both irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and traveler’s diarrhea. They are also known to fight off skin infections, tooth decay and periodontal disease!

In conclusion, having a balanced intestinal flora greatly affects the way you feel, and how healthy and energetic you are. As well as keeping your intestinal flora in perfect balance, probiotics also help to keep your intestines clean! The most common probiotic is Acidophilus, or yogurt. They can be obtained over the counter in your health store or pharmacy in pill form.

Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

All material provided is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction.

It is of utmost importance that you do your own due diligence. Consult with your physician or a qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health and well-being.

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©2007 Copyright Ann Stewart

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