Probiotics: For Life
Probiotics are live microorganisms (mostly bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms in the human gut. They are also called "good bacteria" or "friendly bacteria," and the term probiotics literally means "for life" in Latin.
The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations define probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."
Probiotics are found in foods and dietary supplements. Foods containing probiotics are yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, and some juices and soy beverages. The bacteria can be natural or supplemented, depending on the product. Probiotic foods that date back to ancient times are fermented foods and cultured milk products.
Probiotics are similar to the bacteria found naturally in people's guts, especially those in breast fed infants who have natural protection against many diseases. Generally the bacteria come from two different groups, lactobacillus or bifidobacterium bifidus, and within each species there are different strains or types.
The world is full of microorganisms as are people's bodies- in and on the skin, in the gut, and in other places. Friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protect against microorganisms that could cause disease, and to the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. The interactions between microorganisms in the body and with the body can be crucial to a person's health and well being. The bacterial balancing act can be thrown by two major factors:
-Antibiotics which kill friendly bacteria in the gut along with the bad bacteria they are designed to kill. It is wise to use probiotics to offset effects from antibiotics.
-"Unfriendly" microorganisms such as disease causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and parasites can also upset the fragile balance. Scientists are researching whether probiotics can stop the unfriendly bacteria and/or suppress their growth and activity. Probiotics may help with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, tooth decay and periodontal disease, vaginal infections, inflammatory bowel disease, infections from H. pylori, a bacterium that causes most ulcers and many types of chronic stomach inflammation, stomach and respiratory infections and skin infections to name a few.
Probiotics can also support digestion, reducing indigestion symptoms like gas, cramping, bloating and diarrhea. They can also be used to help with symptoms of lactose intolerance, where the gut lacks the enzymes to process dairy products and causes digestive discomfort.
By supporting total body health including immunity, probiotics have truly earned their place as one of the best ways we can support our defense and overall health today.