What are probiotics and what do they do? A probiotic by definition is something that helps to promote life. This is the normal bacteria in our digestive tract. Many people don’t realize that our digestive tract harbors billions and billions and billions, if not trillions of bacteria and sometimes yeast that are health promoting to our body. They have a regulating effect on our immune system, they help us assimilate vitamins and nutrients from our foods and are absolutely necessary for us to survive. Probiotics are supplements that help provide some of the normal bacteria, called flora, for our overall health. We know that taking certain drugs like antibiotics can deplete a certain percentage of the normal flora. So probiotics are supplements that can be used to build back up the normal flora levels. We commonly use probiotics for kids on the spectrum to improve their digestive health and improve their overall immune function by giving probiotics. There are a wide variety of probiotics. The two that you have probably heard of bacteria wise are acidophilus and bifidobacter. We know that Acidophilus is a bacteria that generally resides in the small intestine and bifidobacter usually resides in the large intestines. They are both very important for keeping a balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. When you give a multi spectrum probiotic, an example would be the Probiotic Support Formula from New Beginnings or Therbiotic complete from Klaire labs, those are a multi-flora probiotics. They are generally health promoting, they give a wide variety of normal bacteria, sort of like a multi-vitamin for your child’s digestive system. There are other types of Probiotics that are more treatment specific like Culturelle. Culturelle is a specific type of bacteria called acidophilus GG and it has a specific affinity for clostridia bacteria. Clostridia bacteria is pathogenic and it does cause problems in the body and for kids on the spectrum. Culturelle is very target specific for colostridia. There is another probiotic called VSL #3. VSL #3 is a very high potency lactic acid producing probiotic that is very helpful for breaking down oxalates. Oxalates are organic compounds that we get through our foods, they can cause mineral depletion in the body and in some people when they are absorbed in high amounts over prolonged periods of time can lead to kidney stones. So VSL #3 is very oxalate specific. Threelac is another type of probiotic and its effects are more antifungal, it tends to attack more yeast. So you think of Threelac as something that you would be using as an anti-yeast treatment. There is another type of probiotic that is commonly used called Saccharomyces boulardii. Saccharomyces boulardii is actually a yeast so it may not fall into the classic definition of a probiotic because it is not something that is essential for our health and well being but it can be used as a remedy to help attack and eradicate Candida. It also does help to attack clostridia. Saccharomyces boulardii is a more treatment specific type of probiotic. Probiotics are very important supplements for interventions for your child, especially in respects to digestive health and come as both broad spectrum probiotics and treatment specific probiotics.
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