Probiotics are a health food supplement that has many health benefits for its users. As with many newer supplements on the market, there is still much to learn, but an abundance of evidence supports its use as a treatment for many different health problems.
In a time when health supplementation is a booming industry, it is important to learn as much about the various supplements on the market as possible. You don’t want to put something in your body that is questionable, especially when there is access to research on the most popular supplements that allows you to understand which supplements are right for you.
What are Probiotics
There has been much debate over the definition of a probiotic, but the definition agreed upon by the World Health Organization is that probiotics are living bacteria that, in the proper amount, offer a considerable health benefit to its host. There are billions of “friendly” bacteria in your gut that are beneficial to your health and they are similar to the bacteria in probiotics.
It may be a little disconcerting to think about billions of bacteria living in your stomach and intestinal tract, but these bacteria are necessary for healthy, comfortable living. The general use of probiotics is to assist your body’s naturally occurring “gut flora”, which means they help to establish and maintain the right balance of microorganisms that exist in your stomach and intestines. If the natural, friendly microorganisms that exist in your gut are overrun or killed off, probiotics can be introduced to help stabilize the “gut flora.”
While there are many different types of probiotics, the most common used as supplements are the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. Lactobacillus acidophilus (L Acidophilus) is the most popular strain used in probiotic supplements.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics have been shown to be beneficial in many ways. By introducing this friendly type of bacteria into your intestines you can make the environment unfriendly to the harmful bacteria, viruses, yeast and parasites that may intrude.
It may sound silly to hear, but the relationship your body has to the microorganisms that live in your body is an essential ingredient to good health. These interactions have much to do with a healthy immune system and a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
This balance can be severely altered in two major ways. The introduction of harmful microorganisms in the body in the form of harmful bacteria, yeasts, fungi and parasites is one way to upset this balance. Another way is by the use of antibiotics that, in an effort to kill off unwanted bacteria, the helpful bacteria in your intestines are also killed off.
This is when a probiotic supplement can get your body back into its normal rhythm and get you to feeling like your old self again.
Who Should Take Probiotics
Probiotics are recommended by doctors in many cases to those who have just completed antibiotic treatments. This is to help replenish the healthy bacteria in your body and to keep you from falling ill with some other ailment related to this imbalance.
If you suffer from any of the following health problems, you may benefit from a probiotic supplement.
- Chronic stomach inflammation
- Crohn’s disease
- Diarrhea from infection
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Respiratory infections
- Tooth decay
- Vaginal infections
- Weakened immune system
Probiotic supplements can be helpful in the recovery from any of these health problems, though it should not be considered the “cure” for theses ailments. Medical professionals consider probiotics to be helpful in the treatment of many health issues and will recommend them to you in some cases, but there is still much to be learned about the benefits and safety of probiotics.
Side Effects of Probiotics
Currently, there are only a few minimal known side effects associated with the use of probiotics and they are rare in occurrence. There is a long history of use of probiotic microorganisms without any reports of serious side effects. The side effects that have been reported are mild and have to do with the digestive tract: gas and bloating being the most common.
Research is underway looking into the possible side effects of probiotics when given to those with questionable immune systems, the elderly and children. Medical experts are trying to find out if more serious side effects could occur with those who have underlying medical conditions in which probiotics could possibly cause infections or inhibit the immune system.
Because there is still much to be learned about the use of probiotics, you should consult your doctor before beginning probiotic supplementation. It is important that a medical professional who understands your medical history advise you as to the proper supplementation for you.
Where to Find Probiotics
Probiotics can be easily found through online health supplement retailers. There are plenty of suppliers available, which allows you to shop around for the best price and the most respected supplier. Probiotics are regulated by the FDA as a supplement and not a food, which means they are not subject to the strictest regulations. This necessitates buying them through a retailer that you trust and that has a good reputation.