Summer isn't over yet, but the first day of school will be here before you know it. With various sporting events and afterschool activities, meals are often grabbed on the go. Tummy troubles can strike anyone in the family, causing GI distress like abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. There are lots of circumstances that can leave the family feeling under the weather this time of year, so it's important to support your family's health with probiotics, or friendly bacteria.
When you think of bacteria, you probably think of those that cause disease. But a growing body of scientific evidence shows that some types of bacteria can actually help prevent disease and contribute to good health in a variety of ways.
Probiotics populate the gut to keep pathogens in check, aid nutrient absorption, and support digestion. These bacteria are found naturally in the body as well as in foods like yogurt and chocolate. Probiotics are also available in dietary supplements.
Here are just a few ways probiotics can support your family's health.
Probiotics may help relieve digestive ills.
Studies suggest that probiotics may be helpful for cramping, gassiness, and diarrhea, especially when those symptoms are caused by antibiotics. They can also benefit more serious, chronic gastrointestinal conditions. Clinical trials suggest that probiotics may prevent a relapse of Crohn's disease and help people maintain remission of ulcerative colitis. They also show promising results for irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and diarrhea caused by viruses, harmful bacteria, or parasites.
Beneficial bacteria are essential for strong immunity.
About 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, so it makes sense that a healthy gut leads to healthy immunity. Probiotics help lower the number of bacteria in your system that can cause infections. When the immune system isn't under as much stress from harmful bacteria, it's better equipped to fight off diseases of all kinds, which is key during this time of year. Studies suggest probiotics could potentially reduce the frequency and duration of illnesses like colds.
Probiotics may be helpful for seasonal allergies.
Allergy season may start in the spring, but anyone who is sensitive to mold and ragweed pollen will tell you that it can drag on into the summer and fall -- a time when most families don't have time to be sidelined by allergies. Probiotics alter the balance of bacteria in the intestinal tract in a way that may prevent the immune system from flaring up in response to allergens, helping to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. In a study reviewing data from 23 randomized trials, researchers found that, in 17 of the 23 studies, people with seasonal allergies who took daily probiotics showed improvement in at least one outcome measure, such as improved symptoms or quality of life, compared with those who took a placebo.
In addition to incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt into your diet, look for probiotic supplements at your local natural market. You'll find a wide variety of options, including digestive and immune-health formulas as well as individual strains and supplements for kids. Make probiotics part of your family's health regimen to stay well year-round.
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