What are Probiotics, and How Can They Help?

Bacteria and microorganisms are often associated as being harmful “germs”. They can however be beneficial, helpful, and even healthy. Probiotics which are living microbes or strands of bacteria when consumed are intended to have health benefits.

Known as the ‘father of probiotics” Nobel Elie Metchnikoff introduced the concept of consuming beneficial microorganisms to improve one’s health back in the early 20th century. After further research we have learned that like the bacteria normally present in our intestines which digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins that the microbes in probiotics can complete similar tasks because they are the same as or similar to the microorganisms that are in our bodies naturally. While there are many varieties of microorganisms, the most common bacteria used as a probiotic belong to groups called Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium. Which each contain their own groups that include many different strains of bacteria. Yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii may also be used in probiotics.

While not all probiotics are the same because different strains of bacteria have different effects, and different strains could help one condition over another. According to Harvard Health Journal, research has been promising and potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of:

* Diarrhea

* Irritable bowel syndrome

* Ulcerative colitis

* Crohn’s disease

* H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)

* Vaginal infections

* Urinary tract infections

* Reoccurrence of Bladder cancer

* Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile

* Pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)

* Eczema in children

* Hay fever

* Tooth decay, periodontal disease, and other oral health problems

* Liver disease

* Colic in infants

* The common cold

Doctors have been recommending probiotics supplements for disorders that don’t seem to be responding to conventional medicine. As well as patients’ self- dosing with over the counter probiotics. Most Probiotics are measured in units of millions and billions. This is less than an estimated 100 trillion

microorganisms representing 500 different species that inhabit a normal healthy bowel. While you should always consult a doctor before starting any new supplement, taking probiotics don’t generally harm you or make you sick because they contain similar bacterium that is already in the body. Some evidence has been shown that people with weakened immune systems should avoid taking probiotics because they may lead to more serious infections. Although some probiotics have shown promise in research studies, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any probiotics for preventing or treating any health problem.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, www.health.harvard.edu/vitamins-and-supplements/health-benefits-of-taking- probiotics. The Benefits of Probiotics

“Probiotics: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 31 July 2018, nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm#hed2.

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