Scientists are still exploring the benefits of probiotics, but research suggests that this good bacteria may help treat digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and indigestion, among other health conditions.
Intentionally putting live bacteria into your body might seem crazy since doctors normally prescribe antibiotics and other medications to kill disease-causing bacteria. However, consuming probiotics—also called "good" bacteria—is exactly what many people are doing these days to improve their digestive health and general well-being.
Researchers are finding that the benefits of probiotics may include the treatment and prevention of numerous health conditions and diseases, many of them with hard-to-treat symptoms.
How Probiotics Work
Although more research is needed, so far scientists have surmised that probiotics may help replace and protect the good bacteria in your body, which can be destroyed, for example, when you take antibiotics. Probiotics may also help balance the good and bad bacteria in your body, which could help to bolster your immune system.
Researchers have yet to pinpoint exactly how these microorganisms work to improve your health. They are also still trying figure out which bacteria are the good, or right, ones to help treat specific conditions.
We do know that poor diet, stress, environmental factors, using antibiotics more than prescribed, and other drugs can disrupt the balance of bacteria in our bodies.
By keeping the balance of bacteria in check, probiotics, which is a Greek word that means "promoting life," may help improve your health in a variety of ways.
Potential Benefits of Probiotics
Most research has supported the use of some probiotics for treating digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and indigestion. Some research also suggests that some probiotics may help prevent diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics and relieve some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. However, scientific studies have yet to conclusively demonstrate these benefits, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any probiotics for the prevention or treatment of any health problem. It is also important to note that different probiotics may work in different ways, and more research is needed to confirm the recommended uses and potential benefits of each probiotic.
How to Get Probiotics from Your Diet
Probiotics are found naturally in many fermented foods and drinks and also in supplements. Products include:
- Acidophilus milk
- Unpasteurized sauerkraut
- Miso soup
- Sourdough bread
- Some fermented soft cheeses, like Gouda
If you are unable to get the probiotics you need through your diet, supplements are also available. Speak with your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist about which supplements may be right for you.
Are Probiotics Right for You?
Probiotics are generally considered safe for healthy people. Short-term side effects may include mild gas or bloating while your system gets accustomed to the extra boost of good bacteria. Also, as with any product, you can have an allergic reaction.
It's important to note, though, that although probiotics are often used to treat health conditions, the FDA regulates them as food. Therefore, the makers of probiotic supplements do not have to show that they are safe and effective, as a drug company would have to do with a new medication.
Another important thing to note is that there are many strains of bacteria. Not all strains treat all conditions, so it's important to consult your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist to make sure you choose the right type and dose of probiotic for your specific health issue.
Those who have weakened immune systems or other serious illnesses should also always consult their doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before taking probiotics, as they may cause adverse side effects.
By Joelle Klein
WebMd, What are Probiotics?
Harvard Health Publications, Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
Berkeley Wellness, Probiotics Pros and Cons
National Institutes of Health, Probiotics: In Depth
National Psoriasis Foundation, Probiotics Can Help High Blood Pressure
Prevention, More Proof That Probiotics Boost Immunity