What Are Probiotics?
Often referred to as ‘good bacteria’, probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms that occur naturally in the human body to promote good health. Probiotics are found as dietary supplements and are added to many dairy products, particularly yogurt, as active live cultures. Unlike most bacteria, probiotics block the microorganisms and pathogens that produce toxins and help to balance the microbes within the intestines.
Types of Probiotics
Individuals can take probiotics as a dietary supplement or by eating food products that have added live probiotic cultures. This is most commonly found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt, but there are juices, cookies, cereal, and many other food products that are probiotic fortified. Probiotic supplements are also available in tablets, capsules, and powders, containing the same cultures in a freeze dried form. Different strains of probiotics have varying effects within the body and are marketed under several different brand names, including Good Belly, DiarSafe, and Florajen3, among others.
Many potential benefits of probiotics are being investigated. The consumption of probiotics is believed to improve many gastrointestinal symptoms, especially diarrhea, and may help in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Probiotics may also improve lactose tolerance and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Individuals may use probiotics to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, to improve immune function during an infection, and for dental health benefits as well. Other uses for probiotics may be discovered as research continues.