Probiotics live in the gastrointestinal tract and are called “friendly bacteria”, as opposed to “bad bacteria”. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be taken as a food supplement. When taken as a health supplement, they are used to help restore the population of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. They are similar to what is found naturally in the gastrointestinal tract. There are different types of probiotics, and each one operates in a different capacity. Working together, they contribute to a person’s health and help prevent disease.
The purposes of friendly bacteria are many. They help digest, absorb, and metabolize food. They help eliminate toxins. They strengthen the immune system and thus help protect against microorganisms that could cause disease. There are actually around 400 kinds of probiotic bacteria in the human digestive tract. One well-known probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus, is found in live cultured yogurt. Sometimes people eat yogurt with the aim of increasing their intake of this probiotic. However, in order for this to be effective, it has to be a live culture yogurt. Pasteurization kills probiotics with heat.
When people experience digestive troubles, one thing they may try in order to improve digestion is to increase their intake of probiotics. This can be done through supplementation. Increased probiotics may help prevent diarrhea, cramping, and gas. They also may be useful in cases of vaginal yeast and urinary tract infections. When antibiotics are taken, they kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad, so taking probiotics helps build and bring back into balance the natural flora that should be in the intestines. Other benefits of probiotics may be preventing infections in the digestion tract, helping control inflammation, and helping with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are ongoing studies being conducted regarding probiotics and their benefits.
Probiotics taken as supplements complement what is already naturally occurring in the digestive tract. Various people groups around the world have made probiotics a natural part of their diet with certain live foods they create and eat. These are particularly the cultured milk products such as yogurt, acidophilus milk and kefir. Other foods with probiotics are sauerkraut, Korean kimchi, miso soup, fermented soft cheese like Gouda, sourdough bread, sour pickles, tempeh, and probiotic supplements. If that list got your digestive juices going it may be because your body is talking to you to think about more probiotics. Probiotics are considered a type of food. If you have any questions about probiotics, these should be directed to your doctor or primary health giver.