Most of us have seen or heard commercials about food and supplements containing probiotics and how their presence can be beneficial to the body. However, few people actually know what probiotics are, how they work to improve health or even where they can be found.
Probiotics are a type of beneficial bacteria that can live safely in the digestive tract and are necessary for healthy digestive function. Two common forms of probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus, which can be found in fermented dairy products including cheese, yogurt and other dietary supplements, and Bifidobacterium, which can be cultivated outside the body and taken by mouth in medicine form. Probiotics can also be found in a variety of energy drinks and bars. When consumed as part of a healthy diet or as a dietary supplement, probiotics grow inside the digestive tract, where they reinforce naturally occurring good bacteria.
The presence of good bacteria within the digestive system aids in several bodily functions, including normal digestive activity, the breakdown of consumed foods, assisting the body with its intake and absorption of nutrients as well as warding off bad bacteria associated with gastrointestinal diseases that destroy good bacteria.
Claims about the benefits of probiotics vary greatly, and while research has not drawn definitive conclusions about their positive impact on health, ongoing studies (as well as the informed opinions of many health experts) continue to suggest that consuming probiotics can be beneficial to overall health. In fact, most healthy adults can add probiotic-rich foods and supplements to their daily diet without any negative side effects whatsoever.
Many studies have shown probiotics to be beneficial in treating numerous health conditions as well as supporting overall digestive health and a strong immune system. Recent studies have even suggested that probiotics may even relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies. As research continues, a growing body of evidence suggests that probiotics may be effective for the following:
- Treatment of diarrhea, especially as brought on by the use of antibiotic drugs
- Prevention and treatment of urinary tract and vaginal infections
- Alleviation of symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Treatment of intestinal infections
- Prevention or reduction of the severity of the flu or a cold
When shopping for diary products that contain probiotics, read the label and look for phrases like "contains live active cultures" or "contains probiotics." Labels on supplements, energy drinks and bars should also contain information regarding the presence of probiotics. While there is no approved recommended daily dosage, general guidelines suggest daily intake of one billion to 10 billion live bacteria cultures, which are measured in Colony Forming Units (CFUs). Although these counts are usually not found on food labels, a good rule of thumb to reach the suggested level is to include a daily serving of a probiotic-rich food like yogurt in your normal diet.
While adding foods to your diet that naturally contain probiotics (yogurts, cheeses) does not pose a risk if you are in good general health, if you are considering a supplement containing probiotics, it's always a good idea to check with your physician first.
Posted: 6/03/2015 by
Filed under: Bacteria, Cultures, Digestion, Probiotic, Probiotics, Total, Wellness