We've all heard of antibiotics, but what about probiotics? Probiotics are dietary supplements that are designed to help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms, including beneficial bacteria, in the intestinal tract. In the healthy human digestive system are found some 400 types of beneficial bacteria that keep the growth of harmful bacteria in check and keep the digestive system running properly.
Lactic acid bacteria make up the largest group of these beneficial bacteria. Many people consume Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is found in yogurt and fortified low-fat milk. Probiotics are being discovered by millions of people who want to keep their stomach and intestinal tract working optimally. They can be a simple and effective way to keep the digestive system working normally in times of stress and when dealing with the effects of prescription antibiotics.
Uses for Probiotics
One of the main reasons people consume probiotics is to prevent diarrhea that is caused by taking antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill off the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract along with killing the harmful bacteria in the body, and intestinal woes are a common side effect. Probiotics in the form of dietary supplements are used to help restore the intestines to normal function.
Probiotics have also been used as nutritional support for combating some types of infectious diarrhea and inflammation of the ileal pouch, which is a condition that occurs in people who have had their colon removed. Studies are underway to see if they may be effective in preventing infections of the intestines and controlling the immune response in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Safety of Probiotics
Because probiotic bacteria are already present in a normal digestive system, consuming them is considered to be safe. However, anyone who regularly takes probiotics should tell their doctor if they are prescribed conventional medications in order to prevent any potential interactions between the probiotics and the drugs prescribed. While probiotics are generally considered safe, there have not been long-term studies indicating whether taking them for over long periods is safe or effective.
You should thoroughly research any probiotics you consider taking. Different brands may have different ingredients and different levels of probiotics. Dietary supplements are not necessarily standardized in their manufacture, so how well they work for you may differ from one brand to the next. Therefore, it's a good idea to order a small quantity to start with and see for yourself how well they work before committing to ordering a larger supply.
By Heather Hemmings
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