Yogurt and fermented drinks such as kefir that contain "good" bacteria may be very good for your health.
These foods, called probiotics, contain one or more types of bacteria from the lactobacillus family. They are promoted as being able to improve digestive function. According to findings presented last week at an international conference, probiotics may have a role in the prevention and management of serious gastrointestinal conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
He and his colleagues recently identified non-invasive tests that could provide a way to assess the effectiveness of probiotics. One is a urine test to check the permeability of the intestine, and the other is a breath test that measures the metabolic activity of bacteria in the intestines. Excess intestinal permeability--or "leaky gut"--is common in diarrhea.
Researchers gave healthy adolescents a probiotic (yogurt) for two days. Using the urine test, she found that their intestines became less permeable. A second study, presented for the first time at the conference, examined patients with inflammatory bowel disease. There are two conditions categorized as IBD: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, both of which are characterized by severe inflammation of the intestines.
The researchers wanted to see if five days of consuming a probiotic preparation would change the metabolic activity of bacteria in patients' large intestines and the levels of short-chain fatty acids, which are believed to be beneficial for digestive health, in their feces. The probiotic was given to 17 healthy people and 11 IBD patients, who all consumed 150 grams of two types of yogurt per day. The fecal short-chain fatty acid levels in the IBD patients were significantly different from those of the healthy individuals at the outset of the study, but were normalized after the patients took the probiotic.
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