Probiotics are bacteria that are good for the body. Here’s more about what they are and what they are used for.
Most of us have a misconception that bacteria are pathogens causing various diseases. There is no doubt that some of the strains are pathogenic, but not all. Hence, after administering antibiotics for an extended period, an expected side effect is disturbing the balance of probiotic flora in the body. So, what are probiotics? In precise words, they are live bacterial strains beneficial for the overall functioning of the body.
Probiotics: What are They?
Probiotics are defined as naturally occurring bacteria, which are usually found in the intestinal portion. From this, you can make out the role of these bacterial strains. Yes, their main functions are to ensure smooth digestion of food particles, and minimize bowel problems. Some examples are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Bifidobacterium species. Like other beneficial bacteria found in the body, probiotics also help in controlling the population of other harmful microbes.
Besides live bacterium, the term probiotic is colloquially used to represent food or nutritional supplements, which are formulated with beneficial bacteria. These useful microbes are generally added in food products that are prepared by partial fermentation process. You might have already come across commercial probiotic food, like yogurt, aged cheese, fermented milk, soy milk, miso, fruit juices, pickles, etc.
With so many probiotic products in the market, selecting one is not so easy. While choosing the best probiotics, most people are confused between probiotic food and supplements. Needless to say, the concentration of live culture in a supplement is higher than that in a food product. With supplements, the challenging part is deciding safe dosage and intake period to avoid any side effects.
What are They Good For?
It is not necessary that you rely on probiotic supplements, or include food that contain the same. Remember that helpful bacteria are already present in the intestinal tract of healthy individuals. There are chances that population of good bacteria gets reduced due to antibacterial therapy, fungal infections, infectious diseases and other medical problems. In such instances, the health care specialist may recommend taking probiotic food and supplements with an aim to restore normal gut flora. The health benefits of probiotics are:
- Probiotics are effectual to treat diarrhea, resulted as an adverse effect of antibacterial treatment.
- They are used for combating irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal problems.
- They aid in protecting gastrointestinal infections, and also, in ensuring quick recovery of intestinal infections.
- At times, they are recommended as a supportive treatment for yeast infections.
- The beneficial bacteria aid in counteracting harmful bacteria, thus effective for treatment of urinary tract infections.
- Consuming supplements aid in minimizing the risk of allergic reactions and respiratory tract infections (cold and flu).
As per proponents, consuming probiotic supplements is good for health in a number of ways. The benefits of probiotics in restoring microbial balance and preventing yeast infections are true to some extent. Other than these, there are less clinical trials that support claimed health benefits.
Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.