Health Beat: Taking probiotics like a pro

Health Beat: Taking probiotics like a pro

MINNEAPOLIS - Disease, illness and even death can all be caused by the spread of bad bacteria, but there are billions of other kinds that could do your body a lot of good.

"You basically feel like you need to go to the bathroom 10, 15 times a day," said Adam Jonas, who has colitis. "So, it's pretty nasty. It's not a comfortable thing to be dealing with."

To help with his gut problem, he takes a capsule full of bacteria every day.

"It's new to hear doctors prescribing bacteria," said Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff, a senior consultant at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. "They're friendly bacteria, beneficial bacteria."

Called probiotics, they can be found in yogurt. The doctor said they help the body produce vitamins, pain relieving substances, and can improve digestion.

Sleep problems, surgery, stress and even antibiotics hurt the balance of good bacteria in your belly.

"Forty million Americans suffer from chronic gut distress," Plotnikoff said. "Simply taking probiotics can help a large number of people."

They're helpful for most, but critically ill patients with immune system problems should steer clear of probiotics. Also, the FDA doesn't regulate probiotics for over-the-counter use.

If you take them, the doctor said make sure they have at least 20 billion colony forming units, or CFUs, per capsule, and only wash them down with filtered or bottled water.

"City water has chlorine in it to get rid of bacteria," Plotnikoff explained.

Heat can also kill probiotics, so avoid coffee, tea or hot foods for at least 30 minutes before or after taking one.

After taking probiotics for a while now, Jonas has experienced their benefits. 

"I would say I'm normal now," he said.

Probiotics are available over the counter, and the doctor said a two-month supply runs about $40 to $50.

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