Absorption: Uptake. In the biomedical sciences, absorption has diverse specific meanings.

Acidophilus: Bacteria found in yogurt that can help restore a supportive bacterial environment to an intestinal tract whose normal intestinal bacterial population (“flora”) has been disturbed by disease or antibiotics.

Alternative medicine: Healing arts not taught in traditional Western medical schools that promote options to conventional medicine that is taught in these schools.. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a Western physician. Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. See also complementary medicine, conventional medicine.

Bacteria: Single-celled microorganisms which can exist either as independent (free-living) organisms or as parasites (dependent upon another organism for life).

Cell: The basic structural and functional unit in people and all living things. Each cell is a small container of chemicals and water wrapped in a membrane.

Chronic: This important term in medicine comes from the Greek chronos, time and means lasting a long time.

Clinical trials: Trials to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on large groups of people.

Enzyme: A protein (or protein-based molecule) that speeds up a chemical reaction in a living organism. An enzyme acts as catalyst for specific chemical reactions, converting a specific set of reactants (called substrates) into specific products. Without enzymes, life as we know it would not exist.

Gene: The basic biological unit of heredity. A segment of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) needed to contribute to a function.

Gene transfer: The insertion of unrelated genetic information in the form of DNA into cells.

Genetic: Having to do with genes and genetic information.

Immune: Protected against infection. The Latin immunis means free, exempt.
Immune system: A complex system that is responsible for distinguishing us from everything foreign to us, and for protecting us against infections and foreign substances. The immune system works to seek and kill invaders.

Immunity: The condition of being immune. Immunity can be innate (for example, humans are innately immune to canine distemper) or conferred by a previous infection or immunization.
Infection: The growth of a parasitic organism within the body. (A parasitic organism is one that lives on or in another organism and draws its nourishment therefrom.) A person with an infection has another organism (a “germ”) growing within him, drawing its nourishment from the person.

Inflammation: A basic way in which the body reacts to infection, irritation or other injury, the key feature being redness, warmth, swelling and pain. Inflammation is now recognized as a type of nonspecific immune response.

Insertion: Chromosome abnormality due to insertion of a segment from one chromosome into another chromosome.

Lactobacillus: A bacterium normally found in the mouth, intestinal tract, and vagina. Lactobacillus can also live in fermenting products, such as yogurt. Humans appear to have a symbiotic relationship with this bacteria. Lactobacillus has been with us so long that some types have become an important part of food digestion, although Lactobacillus can also contribute to cavities in the teeth if allowed to remain too long within the mouth.

Lactobacillus acidophilus: The bacteria found in milk and fermented milk products, particularly yogurt with “live cultures” of L. acidophilus. L. acidophilus assists with the digestive process within the intestinal tract. It can be decimated by the use of antibiotics, and many health professionals urge people to use probiotics to counter this unfortunate side effect of antibiotic use.

Lactose: The sugar found in milk. Lactose is a large sugar molecule that is made up of two smaller sugar molecules, glucose and galactose. In order for lactose to be absorbed from the intestine and into the body, it must first be split into glucose and galactose. The glucose and galactose are then absorbed by the cells lining the small intestine. The enzyme that splits lactose into glucose and galactose is called lactase, and it is located on the surface of the cells lining the small intestine.

Lactose intolerance: Inability to digest lactose, a component of milk and most other dairy products. Lactose is sometimes also used as an ingredient in other foods, so those with a lactase deficiency should check labels carefully.

Metabolic: Relating to metabolism, the whole range of biochemical processes that occur within us (or any living organism). Metabolism consists of anabolism (the buildup of substances) and catabolism (the breakdown of substances).

Probiotic: A microbe that protects its host and prevents disease. The best-known probiotic is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurt, acidophilus milk, and supplements. Probiotics counter the decimation of helpful intestinal bacteria by antibiotics. Probiotics given in combination with antibiotics are therefore useful in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The yeast S. boulardii and three strains of Lactobacillus have also been shown to be useful in this regard.

Probiotics: live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut that are taken as dietary supplements or found in foods. Most probiotics are bacteria similar to those naturally found in the intestine. Common examples are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium . They may occur naturally in yogurts and certain fermented foods. Probiotics have been used as treatment for various gastrointestinal conditions including irritable bowel syndrome and traveler’s diarrhea.

Viruses: Small living particles that can infect cells and change how the cells function. Infection with a virus can cause a person to develop symptoms. The disease and symptoms that are caused depend on the type of virus and the type of cells that are infected.

Yogurt: A common dish made of milk curdled and fermented with a culture of Lactobacillus (the milk bacillus). The word was acquired in the 1620s from Turkey. It can be spelled myriad ways including yogurt, yoghurt, yaghourt, yooghurt, yughard, and yaourt. The most popular spellings in the Anglo-Saxon world are yogurt and yoghurt while in France one eats yaourt.