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New research: probiotic found in breast milk benefits nerves in gut, calms digestive disorders

Friday, June 25, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: probiotics, breast milk, health news

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(NaturalNews) Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms similar to the "friendly" bacteria found naturally in the body's digestive system. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), there's evidence from a variety of studies that probiotic formulations can help treat diarrhea, urinary tract infections, irritable bowel syndrome and dermatitis (eczema) in children; probiotics may reduce the recurrence of bladder cancer, too.

Now Canadian researchers have published research in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) journal that explains why certain strains of probiotics are particularly soothing to indigestion related problems. It turns out the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri, which occurs in the gut of many mammals and is found in human breast milk, immediately and directly affects nerves in the gut.

For their study, scientist Wolfgang Kunze of the McMaster Brain-Body Institute and Department of Psychiatry at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Ontario, Canada, and his research team took isolated pieces of small intestine removed from healthy and previously untreated mice. Then they added Lactobacillus reuteri to a warm salt solution which was sent flowing through the lumen, or hollow part, of the intestine. The pressure caused by natural contractions in the intestine sections was measured before, during and after adding the probiotic-containing solution. The scientists tested the electrical activity of single intestinal sensory nerve cells, as well.

The results? The researchers documented that the force of muscle contractions in the gut tissue decreased within minutes of exposure to the probiotic solution. This discovery explains why intake of probiotics can often alleviate symptoms of a whole host of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation.

"Scientifically and evidence-based approaches to nutrition to correct potential bacterial imbalance in the intestine and thereby promote better health could possibly restore health in diseases associated with these imbalances," Kunze said in a statement to the media.

This is the latest of a growing body of research backing up what many natural health advocates have said for decades -- probiotics (which can be found in supplements and in many foods including yogurt, kefir, fermented and unfermented milk, miso and tempeh, as well as breast milk) can promote health and protect from illness. For example, as NaturalNews previously reported, researchers have found that taking probiotics may help people lose excess weight (http://www.naturalnews.com/028023_intestinal...). And a study published in the journal Postgraduate Medicine concluded that taking probiotics regularly boosts the immune system in a specific way which helps the body fight off flu infections (http://www.naturalnews.com/026265_probiotic_...).

Editor's note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.

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