Studies conducted for the past 30 years reveal that probiotics, meaning “for life,” decrease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea and can prevent childhood allergies. These living bacterial microorganisms can also relieve the symptoms of vaginal infections and urinary tract infections, according to Harvard Medical School. Probiotics work when you increase your intake of probiotic supplements or consume foods that contain living bacteria.
Most Common Probiotics
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common probiotic bacteria. The Lactobacillus genus has 18 different bacteria strains, while the Bifidobacterium genus consists of eight strains. Lactobacilli inhabit your small intestine, and Bifidobacteria live in your colon. These friendly bacteria, also known as cultures, help the bacteria that already live in your intestines to break down food for healthy digestion. Probiotics may also strengthen your immune system.
Yogurt contains probiotics. Check the yogurt labels when you are selecting the yogurt brand. Some yogurt manufacturers add extra live bacteria cultures to the yogurt, as well as fructose or artificial flavorings. Yogurt made from goat’s milk has more friendly bacteria than yogurts made from cow’s milk. Kefir is a probiotic drink made from goat, cow, sheep, soy, rice or coconut milk. Like yogurt, kefir is available in many flavors. Less well-known probiotic foods are sauerkraut, pickles, dark chocolate, kombucha tea and tempeh.
Probiotics may help your immune system when you suffer from vaginal infections. Simply eating 1 cup of yogurt each day helps prevent vaginal infections. Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, so if you take antibiotics, eating products with probiotics helps replace the good bacteria in your digestive system. Eating foods rich in probiotics also helps prevent diarrhea and decreases the symptoms of lactose intolerance or Crohn’s disease. In addition, you can take probiotic supplements available in granule, powder or capsule form.
Consult your doctor before taking any kind of supplements, especially if you take prescription drugs. If you ingest more than 1 to 2 billion probiotic cells each day, you might get stomach discomfort and gas. Artificial heart valve recipients should consult their doctor before consuming probiotics because of a risk of bacterial infections.
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
- American Gastroenterological Association: Probiotics -- What They Are and What They Can Do for You
- UAB Medicine; Probiotics
- Global Healing Center: Probiotic Foods
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Lactobacillus Acidophilus