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Probiotics Linked to Liver Health Benefits

A recent study from Russia indicates that short term probiotic supplementation may improve liver health in alcoholics. The results are published in the December 2008 issue of the journal Alcohol.

Researchers from Northern State Medical University in Arkhangelsk, Russia recruited 66 male alcoholics who had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the study.

Each participant was assigned to receive either a probiotic supplement or traditional therapy (cessation of alcohol consumption plus vitamins) for five days.

Stool cultures and liver enzyme samples were obtained from participants before and after the study. The two groups were compared to each other, and a third group of 24 healthy controls who did not drink alcohol.

The researchers first identified that patients with alcohol related liver damage had lower levels of probiotic bacteria than the healthy controls that didn’t drink alcohol. Then they analyzed the two treatment groups.

At the conclusion of the study period, researchers found that participants in the probiotic therapy group experienced between a 14% and 24% increase in probiotic levels when compared to the standard therapy group.

They also observed improvements in levels of certain enzymes associated with liver damage and greater improvement in overall alcohol-related liver damage among those who received probiotic supplementation (compared to the standard therapy group).

These results are not surprising given the close relationship between the gut (where most probiotics live and cultivate) and the liver. That's because the liver continuously receives blood from the gut through the circulatory system.

Previous research has also shown that probiotics can positively affect liver health. One study, published in the July 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, showed that probiotic supplementation could reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibit lipid oxidation in patients with liver cirrhosis.

Other studies have shown that probiotics may help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and prevent stomach ulcers.

Probiotics have increased in popularity lately, probably because of the growing body of research that shows their many benefits. In addition to digestive benefits, these friendly bacteria have been may also support your immune system, combat disease causing bad bacteria and even prevent bad breath.

If you are looking to boost probiotic levels inside your body, try consuming more foods like yogurt and cultured milk. If this proves difficult you may want to incorporate a quality probiotic supplement into your diet.

The best products have several different bacteria strains (different strains have different benefits) and several billion bacteria cells. Also make sure that the product you choose is packaged to block light, air, and moisture, which can easily kill probiotics.
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