Health benefits of probiotics

You may have heard about probiotics and how they may be beneficial for your health, but do you know what exactly are they and what conditions they address? Probiotics are organisms such as bacteria or yeast that are believed to improve health. They are available in supplements and foods. The digestive system is home to more than 500 different types of bacteria. They help keep the intestines healthy and assist in digesting food. They are also believed to help the immune system.

Research shows that probiotics may help several specific illnesses, among which:

(1) Treating childhood diarrhea
(2) Treating ulcerative colitis
(3) Treating necrotizing enterocolitis, a type of infection and inflammation of the intestines mostly seen in infants
(4) Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea
(5) Preventing pouchitis, an inflammation of the intestines that can follow intestinal surgery
(6) Treating and preventing eczema associated with cow’s milk allergy
(7) Helping the immune system

Less convincing evidence shows that they may also help with the following illnesses:

(1) Treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
(2) Treating vaginitis
(3) Treating diarrhea caused by C. difficile bacteria
(4) Treating Crohns disease

Probiotics may also be useful in lowering the risk of common childhood illnesses such as ear infections, strep throat, and colds, as reported by another study.

According to Harvard Medical School, probiotics are generally considered safe — they’re already present in a normal digestive system — although there’s a theoretical risk for people with impaired immune function. In case of probiotic supplements it is important that the ingredients are clearly marked on the label and familiar to you or your health provider....