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Things You Didn't Know About Probiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are functional components of food that are active bacteria cultures and these bacteria cultures support the growth of bacteria of healthy bacteria in your intestines! The value of probiotics has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, especially as interest in the gut microbiome has led to significant research that indicates that your whole body is impacted by the health of your intestines. Your body hosts more microorganisms than you have cells and many of the organisms we host are important to our health and well-being. Research has suggested that healthy bacteria may help keep your immune system healthy, as well as maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

When shopping at the grocery store, you might frequently see some of these commons strains of bacteria found naturally or added to your favorite foods;

  • Lactobacilli
  • Bifidobacteria
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

Benefits of Probiotics

There are numerous benefits to including probiotics in your diet. Some key benefits include the following;

  • Help to reduce the effects of lactose intolerance
  • Reduce the symptoms irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Shortening the duration of diarrhea
  • May help prevent some cancers
  • Reduce the risk of allergies
  • Promotes a healthy intestinal flora
  • Lessens the likelihood of diarrhea due to antibiotics
  • May improve vaginal and urinary health

Current research is also looking into possible benefits for reducing the risk of or even as treatment for treating some of the following health conditions;

  • Oral health
  • Skin conditions
  • Some types of cancers
  • Reducing Colic and diarrhea in infants
  • Prevention of colds and allergies
  • Enhancing the effects of the flu vaccine and other vaccines
  • Preventing intestinal infections in premature infants
  • Addressing GI issues in adults and children
  • Reducing complications of liver disease
  • Averting antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Inhibiting the growth of certain tumors

However, the scientific evidence for supporting specific uses is limited and the FDA has not approved any claims to be marketed on the label of probiotics or products that contain probiotics. As research continues we may see this change or more firm recommendations about our health and probiotics be shared.

What to Know About Using Probiotics

1. The ability to measure the amount of probiotics in food sources can be difficult and actual amounts of bacteria can vary.

2. Some people report varying effects of probiotics.

3. Pregnant women and children need to consult with their doctors prior to using probiotics.

4. Do not attempt to self-treat with probiotics and ensure that you see your doctor if you are ill.

5. If you are using probiotics, be sure to share with your healthcare provider. Your doctor may recommend probiotics to support a healthy lifestyle and intestinal flora but be sure to share about usage and quantity.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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