What are Probiotics? What are the Health Benefits of Using Them?

We take antibiotics to kill harmful bacteria that can cause infections. But the idea that bacteria are beneficial can be tough to understand.

The wrong bacteria in the wrong place can cause problems but the right bacteria in the right place can have benefits. These is where probiotics come in.

According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are living microorganisms that when consumed in sufficient numbers can provide health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition.

Broken down, “pro” which means “for” and Greek word “biotic” meaning “bios” or “life”.

Some benefits of probiotics are that they may be able to help prevent and even treat some infections and illnesses and promote healthy digestion and perhaps, a healthy immune system,” says Tsippora Shainhouse, MD.

Two Common Types of Probiotics

Lactobacillus

This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. This species of bacteria produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose or milk sugar. These bacteria also produce lactic acid.

Lactic acid helps control the population of bad bacteria. It also serves as muscle fuel and increases the body’s absorption of minerals.

Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the:

  • mouth
  • small intestine
  • vagina

Bifidobacterium

You can also find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions. They’re thought to:

  • support the immune system
  • limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine
  • help in breaking down lactose into nutrients the body can use

Probiotics Benefits Proven by Research

  • boosting immune system
  • preventing and treating urinary tract infections
  • improving digestive function
  • managing and preventing eczema in children
  • prevent cavities and gum disease
  • lower cholesterol
  • fight bacteria that causes ulcers
  • lose weight