Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are thought to be beneficial in preventing several health conditions. They are usually consumed as supplements or yoghurts and are also referred to as “good bacteria.”
According to the 2001 definition by the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
How Do They Work?
When you lose “good” bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics or have gastrointestinal disease, probiotics can help replace them.
They can help balance your “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.
The complex community of microorganisms in your gut is called the gut flora, gut microbiota, or gut microbiome.
The gut microbiota includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and helminths — with bacteria comprising the vast majority. Your gut is home to a complex eco-system of 300–500 bacterial species.
Most of the gut flora is found in your colon, or large intestine, which is the last part of your digestive tract.
Surprisingly, the metabolic activities of your gut flora resemble those of an organ. For this reason, some scientists refer to the gut flora as the “forgotten organ”.
Your gut flora performs many important health functions. It manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.
It also turns fibers into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate, and acetate, which feed your gut wall and perform many metabolic functions.
These fats also stimulate your immune system and strengthen your gut wall. This can help prevent unwanted substances from entering your body and provoking an immune response.
Your gut flora is highly sensitive to your diet, and studies show that an unbalanced gut flora is linked to numerous diseases.
These diseases are thought to include obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression.
Probiotics and prebiotic fibers can help correct this balance, ensuring that your “forgotten organ” is functioning optimally.
Having the right gut bacteria has been linked to numerous health benefits, including the following :
enhanced immune function
reduced risk of some diseases
Types of Probiotics
1. Lactobacillus: This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
2. Bifidobacterium: You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii: is a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems. Here’s what to look for when choosing the best probiotic for women and men.
The FDA (USA) regulates probiotics like foods, not like medications. Unlike drug companies, makers of probiotic supplements don’t have to show their products are safe or that they work.