Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called \”good\” or \”helpful\” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. You can find probiotics in supplements and some foods, like yogurt. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. How Do They Work? Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work. Some of the ways they may keep you healthy:
When you lose \”good\” bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them. They can help balance your \”good\” and \”bad\” bacteria to keep your body working the way it should. Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups.
Ask your doctor about which might best help you. Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It\’s the one you\’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can\’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Bifidobacterium. You can also find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions. Saccharomyces boulardii Pis a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems. What Do They Do? Among other things, probiotics help send food through your gut by affecting nerves that control gut movement. Researchers are still trying to figure out which are best for certain health problems. Some common conditions they treat are: Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites) There is also some research that shows they\’re useful for problems in other parts of your body.
For example, some people say they have helped with: Skin conditions, like eczema Probiotics, often referred to as \”good bacteria,\” are live microorganisms that confer health benefits to the host. Though you don\’t necessarily need to take probiotic supplements, the Harvard Medical School states that a growing body of research suggests that probiotics may help prevent certain illnesses. Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the helpful microorganisms that reside in your gut, says the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM. Most of the time, probiotic supplements are composed of these \”good bacteria,\” although some are composed of yeast. Most probiotic supplements contain bacteria or yeast identified on the product\’s label as a specific genus, species and strain.
NCCAM indicates that probiotic supplements fall under two genus groups, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, and within those groups various species, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, and finally, various strains or varieties. Choosing the right probiotic supplement can be difficult; the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics points out that the microbes in each human body are unique, so your response to different probiotics will vary from one to the other. According to the Harvard Medical School, the best argument for using probiotics is to treat infectious diarrhea. NCCAM indicates that the efficacy of probiotics is being researched for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, vaginal infections, skin infections, tooth decay, gum disease and stomach and respiratory infections in children. However, other people take probiotics to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance or decrease gas, diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset associated with antibiotic use.
Most people in the United States choose to take probiotic supplements, says the Harvard Medical School; however, in other parts of the world, most notably Northern Europe and Japan, people consume them in fermented foods and beverages. Sources of natural probiotics include yogurt, miso, tempeh, soy beverages and fermented and unfermented milk, says NCCAM. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration classifies probiotic supplements as dietary supplements, not drugs. The efficacy and safety of probiotics has not been studied extensively, and there\’s little data on how safe they are for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, says NCCAM. If you\’re interested in taking probiotic supplements to address a specific health concern, talk to your physician.