Probiotics ease stomach pain and boost immunity

Probiotics eased stomach pain, cut lung infections and boosted immunity, three new studies reveal.

In a stress study, researchers recruited 75 healthy volunteers, aged 18 to 60, who had at least two stress symptoms including being anxious, nervous, irritable, or having sleep trouble or digestive tract problems in the last 30 days and who were not taking medications for the symptoms. Participants took a blend of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium or a placebo once per day for three weeks. At the end of the study, the probiotic group reported significantly less abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting compared to placebo—without side effects.

In a study of endurance athletes during a four-month winter training period, 20 healthy male distance runners took Lactobacillus capsules or a placebo twice per day with food for 28 days. After pausing for 28 days without treatment, the runners reversed Lactobacillus and placebo for the next 28 days. An independent third-party research team assigned the Lactobacillus and placebo treatments so that neither the runners nor study researchers knew which was which.

At the end of the study, seven runners in the placebo group had a combined total of 72 days with respiratory illness symptoms compared to three runners in the Lactobacillus group who had a combined total of 30 days with respiratory illness symptoms and those symptoms were less severe in the Lactobacillus group. Doctors found that the disease-fighting response from white blood cells appeared to be twice as strong in the Lactobacillus group compared to placebo.

In a diarrhea study, 24 women with HIV/AIDS, aged 18 to 44, took three ounces of yogurt per day, with or without Lactobacillus added, for 15 days. The women were not taking anti-retroviral therapy or any other dietary supplements. Within two days, 100 percent of the women in the Lactobacillus group reported no diarrhea, flatulence or nausea compared to 16 percent of the women in the placebo group. Doctors measured a type of white blood cell (CD4) destroyed by HIV and found that levels stayed the same or increased in 92 percent of the Lactobacillus group compared to 25 percent for placebo.

In the early 1900s, Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Eli Metchnikoff, a professor at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, theorized that aging results from foods decomposing in the gut, producing harmful microbes, and that helpful microbes—now known as probiotics—could replace these bad bacteria, prolonging life. 

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