The power of probiotics
Bacteria aren’t all bad. Good bacteria in your gut help you digest food and power up your immune system.
We’re exposed to bacteria since birth, and some studies suggest that the earlier we’re exposed to bacteria, the stronger our immune systems become.
The good bacteria in our digestive tract help us break down foods, make good use of desirable nutrients and cast aside dangerous bugs. If it weren’t for bacteria in our intestines, we wouldn’t be able to benefit from fiber or take advantage of carbohydrates for the fuel we need. And, yes, we also need bacteria to poop regularly.
Today’s processed foods, and emphasis on animal versus plant products, can create a roller coaster of good and bad bacteria. Bacterial imbalance can spell tummy trouble.
If we add the modern tendency to take antibiotics frequently, killing both the bad and the good bacteria, we can end up with an epidemic of gastrointestinal problems.
This is where probiotics come in. Probiotics are live bacteria that can help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing good bacteria in your body already do.
Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, and they are added to some foods and made available as dietary supplements.
Probiotics may help:
- Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
Side effects from taking probiotics are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain probiotics to their diets.
You might have heard of prebiotics. Prebiotics act as food for probiotics. When prebiotics are added, they help probiotics do their job better. Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, contain both live bacteria and the fuel they need to thrive.
If you’re considering taking probiotics, check with your doctor to be sure they’re right for you.
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