The benefits of probiotics are seemingly in-numerable.
They are helpful live cultures that exist in certain foods, such as the beneficial bacteria present in yogurt, some yeasts and other foods such as fortified health drinks and fermented soybean products like “miso” and “tempeh”.
Probiotics are often used as a form of complementary and alternative medicine and to maintain good digestion and proper health.
The World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization define probiotics as, “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” According to the National Institute of Health, they often resemble the beneficial bacteria already present in the human digestive tract.
They do not simply represent a health fad, as they have been consumed by people in the form of cultured milk products and fermented foods since ancient times.
In modern times, however, interest in purposefully supplementing our diets with them has grown. This is in part due to the widespread use of antibiotics in medicine, which despite its obvious benefit can also kill the friendly bacteria present in the gut. One of the important benefits of probiotics is restoring some of those good bacteria.
Those who suffer from diarrhea as a result of taking antibiotics have been found to benefit from taking probiotics. Research is also being conducted into how they might combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the gut.
Restoring the balance between friendly bacteria in the body and fighting off the effects of invasive or unfriendly bacteria, yeasts, fungi and parasites is another of the potential benefits.
Scientists are researching how probiotics prevent and combat conditions including diarrhea, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcers and chronic stomach inflammation, skin infections, tooth decay and intimate infections.
There is evidence that one of the many benefits of probiotics is a strengthening of the immune system. Further evidence suggests that childhood eczema, urinary tract infections, the prevention of colon cancer and the recurrence of bladder cancer may also be helped by the consumption of probiotics.
Some important points to be considered:
- All probiotics are not the same. They come in the form of different strains of bacteria, varieties of yeast and even viruses, and may have differing effects.
- Common probiotics include the types lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, which have many sub strains. Saccharomyces boulardii is another common probiotic that is a type of yeast.
- Using probiotics to treat an ailment should be done under the supervision of a doctor or trained health professional and not done in place of conventional medicine.