Probiotics: What are they??

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help maintain the normal flora of the digestive system. When we think of bacteria, we generally think of something negative. Your body also has good bacteria. Probiotics are helpful, because they keep you healthy. Literally probiotic means: “promoting life”.

Probiotics have always been around both in your body and in the food we eat, but they have recently gotten attention. Probiotics are found in everything from yogurt, to fermented foods and even added to some chocolate. Although they can be found in so many place, there are also many things that can cause your digestive flora to be off balance.

One of the main culprits of an unbalanced flora is the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics cause you to lose the “good” or healthy bacteria in your system. Taking probiotics can help restore this balance. If you have too much bad bacteria in your system you are more susceptible to infections. Probiotics help to maintain a proper balance of good and bad bacteria and in turn they help food move more efficiently through your gut.

Probiotics not only help the gut, but they are also being tested in their potential benefits in mood disorders, depression, improving immune function and many other health issues .

There are many groups of bacteria which are classified as probiotics. Some examples are : bifidobacterium, lactobacillus and saccaromyes boulardii. Each strain has it’s own benefit and can be found in different foods. For example, lactobacillus can be found in dairy products and yogurt. Saccaromyces boulardii is a yeast for of probiotic. This strain is most effective when trying to help with diarrhea. There are numerous other types/strains with numerous benefits.

One concern many people have when they consider taking a new supplement is the potential for side effects. Supplements are not regulated or monitored in with the same stringent standards that food is in the United States. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the safety of a supplement. The potential health benefits of probiotics are still being researched, therefore it is very important to consult with your physician before starting any new supplement.

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