woman holding bottle of probiotics

How Do Probiotics Work in the Body?

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What do you think when you hear the term “bacteria”? If you’re like most people, you probably think about the harmful germs that can make you sick. While it’s valid that there are a lot of bad bacteria like this in the world, there are also other forms of bacteria that can actually benefit your health.

Probiotics are one example of good bacteria, and many people around the world consume them to improve their health. In the United States, probiotics rank among the most popular dietary supplements for adults, after vitamins and minerals.

In this post, we’ll discuss the key details about probiotics, including how they work, where they are found, and what you should know before taking them.

What are probiotics? 

In a healthy bowel, there are about 100 trillion bacteria that work to protect you from pathogens and help you with digestion. Probiotics are live microorganisms that you can ingest to make sure these essential functions continue.

In the gut, probiotics effectively take the place of harmful bacteria. They consume the nutrients that pathogens would need to reproduce, while also assisting with digestion. Probiotics also create helpful byproducts that can prevent diseases from spreading to other parts of the body.

How can probiotics improve your health? 

Research has shown that probiotics can help people experiencing gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Doctors commonly recommend that their patients take probiotics while they’re on antibiotics, in order to prevent stomach-related issues.

Probiotics are also useful for women to ensure the appropriate pH balance in the vagina. The balance is frequently affected by things like birth control pills and women’s hygiene products, and probiotics can restore it to a normal range.

Studies also suggest that probiotics can be used to improve the health of children who are experiencing allergies or eczema. 

How do you take probiotics?

Some fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, contain probiotics. Alternatively, you can take them as an oral supplement. You can find the capsules at pharmacies around the United States. 

Are all probiotics the same? 

There are different strains of probiotics, which perform various functions within the body. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics are the most common probiotics. Lactobacillus is found in yogurt and helps with diarrhea, while Bifidobacterium exists in some dairy products and can help alleviate irritable bowel syndrome.

But even within those categories, there are multiple uses. For example, studies suggest that Lactobacillus plantarum can improve cholesterol levels, while Lactobacillus reuteri can stop pathogens from growing.

The human body is complex, so it can be difficult to correlate specific strains with their purported uses. However, medical research does point to the overall effectiveness of probiotics to treat particular health conditions. 

With that in mind, it’s important to note that there has not been a great deal of research on the impacts of the long-term use of probiotics. As with any other supplement, you should consult with your health professional before adding probiotics to your diet.

For more biology-related content, check out the Biology Wise blog.

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