Probiotics can enrich and replenish healthful bacteria in your gut and digestive tract and are often recommended for people with digestive problems; however, not all probiotics are the same. Let us help you get a better understanding of how they work and where to find them. -All American Healthcare Hammond
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria that promote good health in your digestive tract and immune system. The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting,” and biotic, meaning “life.”
The right bacteria in the right place can have health benefits while the wrong bacteria in the wrong place can cause health problems. Millions of bacteria, both good and bad, live in your gut and digestive tract. These bacteria not only help you digest food and keep your intestines healthy, but also help keep the immune system balanced. An imbalance in the system can be caused by stress, poor diet, antibiotics or infection and can lead to more serious health problems.
It can be extremely beneficial to take probiotics following antibiotics because antibiotics not only kill of bad bacteria that cause infection, but can also often kill off good bacteria with it. Probiotics can help offset this imbalance.
The bacteria naturally found in your gut and digestive tract help protect your body from foreign substances that enter it. When foreign substances or bad bacteria from your gut enter the blood stream, the immune system kicks in to fight it. This is why is is important to keep a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics serve as that “good” bacteria that can help balance your system and repopulate the digestive tract with healthful bacteria. Probiotics can be extremely beneficial for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, by alleviating some of the symptoms including abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Healthful bacteria can also stimulate a healthy immune system. By keeping a fair amount of healthy bacteria in the gut, you can keep bad bacteria from latching on and keep foreign substances moving effectively through the digestive tract, allowing the immune system to stay at bay.
Strains of Probiotics
Probiotics can be found in a variety of supplements and fermented foods, such as yogurt, that contain beneficial bacteria. Some yeasts, such as Saccharmyces, can also act as probiotics.
The most common strains available today are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus is found in yogurt and other fermented foods. This strain of probiotic can effectively treat and prevent diarrhea in children. Bifidobacterium is found in yogurt, cheese and some dairy products. This strain may help ease constipation, IBS, and ulcerative colitis.
Probiotics Beyond the Gut
Not all probiotics are the same. There are different strains of probiotics, each with a different concentration of bacteria and varying properties. The most common strains available today are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteriumt; however, a lot of strains found in yogurt have not been clinically proven to help your health beyond the gut because they are destroyed by the acidity of the stomach before they can reach the colon. Only a few brands of yogurt include strains of bacteria that can survive the passage of the intestinal tract.
You also have to be cautious with supplements claiming to have beneficial probiotics, because not all do. The FDA regulates probiotics like food and not like medication. There are a multitude of products on the market with probiotics, but companies do not have to prove that they actually work. The bacterial strain in effective products must meet a long list certain criteria.
In general, probiotics are safe with mild side effects like an upset stomach, gas and bloating. Additionally, the effects of probiotics and their health benefits are continuing to be researched. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider to see how probiotics can help you and the best way to take them.