Probiotics have gotten a lot of attention over their ability to ease digestive woes such as lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers. Scientists continue to investigate whether these helpful microbes may also aid in fighting inflammation, one of the primary factors behind such chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Inflammation and Disease
Inflammation is a natural part of the immune response to illness or infection. When your body senses trauma or the presence of irritants, the affected cells release histamine, a substance that causes your blood vessels to become more permeable. This increased permeability allows fluids and white blood cells to flow out of your blood vessels into the affected tissues where they can begin to repair the damage and kill off pathogens. Unfortunately, with this helpful immune reaction come a number of familiar and uncomfortable effects: heat, swelling, redness and pain -- the cardinal signs of inflammation. When inflammation is chronic, it can cause health problems of its own.
Probiotics are microorganisms that can deliver positive health benefits when consumed live. You already have probiotic organisms living inside you. They inhabit the intestinal system and ward off invasion by less friendly microbes that can cause infection. Probiotics are also found in numerous foods, such as fermented dairy products and pickled vegetables. Probiotic supplements, in capsule, tablet and liquid forms, are available at natural foods groceries.
Probiotics and Inflammation
Research into the effects of probiotics is offering more insight into their ability to moderate immune response and aid in decreasing inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation acknowledges recent research that revealed the anti-inflammatory properties of Bifidobacterium infantis in reducing arthritis symptoms. This research was performed in lab animals and needs to be replicated in human studies before any firm conclusions can be drawn. "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" adds that probiotics can relieve intestinal inflammation, and that probiotic bacteria have anti-inflammatory qualities, but qualitative differences exists between different strains of probiotic bacteria.
Distinguish between the different strains of probiotic when considering which type is most appropriate for your situation. As the Harvard Medical School Online Family Health Guide notes, the effects of probiotics vary from one strain and another. Probiotics are generally considered safe and taking the wrong probiotic for your condition probably won’t hurt your health, but it may hurt your wallet by wasting money on an ineffective treatment. Consult your doctor before taking probiotic supplements.