Take a bite out of … bacteria?

By • Published: November 18th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We slather our hands with antibacterial lotions. We lather up with soaps that kill bacterial invaders. And we take antibiotics to stamp out infections. Perhaps that’s what makes the new bacteria-friendly food craze seem so, well, crazy.

Several companies now sell foods such as yogurt and cereal containing amped-up levels of probiotics, bacteria that are thought to make you healthier. Experts say different probiotics have shown to help with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal conditions.

And new research shows that these well-mannered microbes may extend a helping hand throughout the rest of the body by boosting the immune system’s defenses.

Irish researchers studied what happened when they gave rats a powder made from a type of bifidobacterium [bih-FY-doh-bac-TEER-ee-um], a probiotic known best for its gastrointestinal benefits. A few weeks later the rats were exposed to a more menacing bacterium, Salmonella. But the scientists found that rats that had been given bifidobacterium were equipped with more immune defenses to stave off the Salmonella. The probiotic also seemed to give the rats more protection against inflammation, which is often triggered by an immune system reaction.

Many foods naturally contain probiotics, but experts say boosting the bacteria count seems to give good bugs more staying power in the body.

New to probiotics? You could face bloating at first, but scientists say it’s just a growing pain [Sue: Make sure this is ‘growing pain’…not growing PAIN] as the good guys fight off the bad bugs in your body.

Finally, a fight you can win with a spoon. Dig in.