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Probiotics are supplements or foods that provide good microorganisms. "Pro", in this case meaning advantageous (good) and the general meaning of "biotic" is living organism. These living organisms are usually bacteria and are beneficial to the health of the host.

Bacteria are tiny, one-celled organisms that exist almost everywhere in the human body. The lungs, blood, brain and urine are places in the body that bacteria typically do not exist- specific internal areas of the body. There are trillions of them since the human body provides bacteria with an environment they find favorable; warm, moist, with lots of methods of feeding.

Not only are there many different species of bacteria, but also different species "prefer" the environment in certain parts of the body and thus specific species are usually found to colonize specific parts of the body. The type of species found also varies from person to person. The bacterial profile of each individual is unique but can be affected by diet, medications such as antibiotics and corticosteroids, diseases and age. 

However, some of the bacteria that live in our bodies are good for us. Their numerous functions in the human body includes:

  • The digestion of foods such as complex carbohydrates.
  • Immune system support by stimulating the intestinal mucosa to produce antibodies and also by increasing T-cell counts.
  • Suppression of harmful and non-beneficial organisms, "bad bacteria". This competition for existence protects us from organ failure and diseases such as colon cancer.
  • Production of hormones and certain vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin K and biotin.
  • The stimulation of intestinal wall cell growth. 

 

Additionally, the changes in the bacterial populations in the intestines is believed to contribute to the occurrence of obesity, certain skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema and inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease- among the medical conditions out there. 

Bad bacteria are the causes of various diseases. A good example and quite often seen effect of bad bacteria would be Strep throat.

There also has to be a balance between good and bad bacteria. In this case the term "bad bacteria" is being used to describe bacteria that are not useful to the human body. Such an imbalance can occur due to poor food choices such as the intake of refined sugars which encourages the growth of harmful bacteria. 

When there is a known imbalance in the presence of useful and non-useful bacteria, or if one believes that they could benefit from supplementation with bacterial cultures, then they turn to yogurt or other products containing live bacteria that are known to be good for the body. These products are used as a means of either replacing what the body is lacking or supplementing what the body needs.

There are many products available which contain the organisms needed.

When buying yogurt, the labeling should include the words "active", "live" or "living" cultures. Also look out for Latin names such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Streptococcus Thermophilus and Bifidobacterium Bifidum. Most probiotic products on the market are of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families. In terms of non-yogurt sources of beneficial microorganisms, the word "live", "living" or "active" bacteria/cultures is not always included in the description of the ingredients. However, many of the manufacturers of these products appear to guarantee the amount of bacteria in their product if the product is stored as they recommend and is not past its expiration date.

In conclusion, many benefit by supplementing with probiotic products. As more studies are done, it is expected that we will learn more about the importance of good intestinal bacteria. However, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these products.

Browse the probiotic supplements available at The Minus Shop.

The statements made here are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be used in place of information provided by your healthcare professional.

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