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Janette Roberts, Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, recommends NFM Professional product range for natural fertility management.
Janette Roberts, Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, recommends the Original Himalayan Crystal Salt from PSYMPHONY.
Janette Roberts, Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, recommends Natural Health Institute’s (NHI) Femmenessence for women.
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janette Roberts, Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist, talks about the Better Babies book series which she co-authored with Francesca Naish.
There are four books in the Better Babies series:
The Natural Way to Better Babies; The Natural Way to Better Pregnancy; The Natural Way to Better Birth and Bonding; The Natural Way to Better Breastfeeding
Australian researchers say probiotics can help some common bowel conditions. But how do you know what you’re buying?
Published 06/03/2008 @ The Pulse
The human gut is a crowded neighbourhood – if you’re a micro-organism, that is. There are 500 species of bacteria resident in the adult gastrointestinal tract, mostly in the large bowel.
Not only do they live there in peaceful coexistence with us, they may actually help – keeping out disease-causing bacteria, keeping our immune system healthy and maintaining the lining of the bowel.
But under some circumstances, the normal mix of these microbes gets disrupted.
It might be because of foreign organisms in our bowel, such as bacteria from contaminated water, or viruses spread from person to person or hand to mouth. Or some of the normal micro-organisms may be killed by broad-spectrum antibiotics taken for a range of common infections.
When this happens, it upsets the normal function of our bowels and we may get symptoms like diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and bloating.
What if we could minimise these effects by swallowing preparations containing large doses of the micro-organisms normally found in our gut?
That’s the thinking behind probiotics, the name given to preparations containing live micro-organisms that, when administered in large enough amounts, confer a beneficial health effect.
Probiotics have become more popular over the last 10 to 20 years, along with vitamins, wheatgerm, and various other alternative and complementary medicines. The idea of restoring our normal intestinal flora and putting us back into balance, without using drugs, makes them seem natural and safe.
They’re classed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as complementary medicines. You can find them in supermarkets in fermented milk drinks and some yoghurts, and in health food stores and pharmacies as capsules and powders.
The most commonly used probiotics are yeast, particularly Saccharomyces, and bacteria, particularly Lactobacillus (lactic acid bacteria) and Bifidobacterium. These micro-organisms are found in large numbers in the normal healthy intestine.
Until recently there hasn’t been a lot of good scientific evidence that they work, so GPs don’t often recommend them, and may not even know much about them. It hasn’t helped that they’re aggressively marketed with claims that are vague and unscientific – that they ‘help maintain your body’s natural balance’, or ‘maintain inner digestive health and aid overall wellbeing’.
Some claims are particularly far-fetched: for example, that they cure bad breath, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue and menstrual complaints. (They do everything, it seems, except put a shine on the duco of the Commodore.)
Still, there is some scientific evidence that they work, at least for some conditions.
That’s the conclusion of a group of Australian gastroenterologists who did a review of the literature on probiotics and their effects on disease, and reported their findings in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. They found there’s good evidence that they work in three different conditions causing diarrhoea.
One is acute viral infectious diarrhoea, especially rotavirus, a common cause of severe diarrhoea in children. When given with rehydrating fluids, probiotics reduced the duration of the diarrhoea by an average of 1.2 days. Probiotics are most effective if given early in the course of illness; Lactobacillus rhamnosus was the probiotic found to be most effective. Probiotics were ineffective where the diarrhoea was caused by bacteria.
Probiotics also helped reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea after antibiotics, the reviewers found. About one person in four gets diarrhoea after taking broad-spectrum antibiotics by mouth – it can happen after a single dose. But Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Saccharomyces boulardii reduce the chances. One study of 269 children found that taking Saccharomyces boulardii reduced the chance of diarrhoea by 10 per cent. Another study of adults over 50 found diarrhoea a third less likely in those taking a mixture of Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Probiotics also helped traveller’s diarrhoea, they found. On average people taking probiotics, especially Lactobacillus rhamnosus, reduced their risk by 15 per cent.
But probiotics weren’t much help for other bowel conditions. While they’re often used to help treat chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, and various allergies including eczema, there wasn’t much evidence one way or another that they work in these conditions (though they may help some symptoms, like bloating and passing wind in irritable bowel syndrome).
This isn’t the first evidence that suggests the benefits of probiotics. A review of 34 well-designed studies published two years ago in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found probiotics reduced antibiotic-associated diarrhoea by 52 per cent, reduced the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea by 8 per cent, and of diarrhoea of any cause by 34 per cent. They found the most protective strains were Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Are you getting what you paid for?
Before you rush down to the supermarket or health food store, it’s worth bearing in mind that there’s a limit to how useful this research is going to be when it comes to actually buying probiotics.
The researchers point out that commercial preparations of probiotics vary a lot in the dose of yeast and bacteria, and in the strains they contain.
Choice magazine did a survey in 2006 of probiotics and found that while some products were labelled with the type of yeast and bacteria they contained, most weren’t. Nothing has changed since then, says Choice.
Then there’s the issue of whether there’s enough micro-organisms in the product to be really effective. Under the Food Standards Code, probiotic yoghurts and drinks must contain at least one million live bacteria per gram to supply the required 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) per day needed to have an effect.
But most preparations don’t tell you how many live bacteria they contain,
Zinech combines zinc with the antibiotic and anaesthetic actions of Propolis, the immune stimulating actions of Echinacea and the soothing properties of Ulmus rubra (slippery elm). All this in a pleasant tasting, chewable or suckable lozenge. Each lozenge contains 15mg of elemental zinc (from amino acid chelate). Zinc lozenges, when started within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms of a cold, significantly reduce the duration of the illness in general and there is a clear therapeutic affect of most individual symptoms. 
 Mossad S.B. 1997. Zinc and the Common Cold: Are we close to a cure? Nutrition 13 (7/8):708-709.