What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are what is often referred to as “good bacteria” or “friendly bacteria.” Not all bacteria cause illness. Probiotics are a type of bacteria that live in the body and help keep the gut healthy and can help defend the body from infections.
Probiotics and prebiotics are not the same. Prebiotics are a source of food for probiotics.
The main probiotics used include:
- Lactobacilli acidophilus (L. acidophilus)
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- A yeast that can help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems
The “top three” probiotics is somewhat subjective. It depends on what you are looking for and how different sources rank what they consider a “top” product.
Probiotics.org top three ranked probiotics are:
- United Natural’s Synbiotic 365
- 1MD’s Complete Probiotics Platinum
- Visbiome capsules
Amazon.com’s top three best-selling probiotics include:
- Physician’s Choice 60 Billion Probiotic
- Garden of Life Once Daily Women’s Probiotic
- Culturelle Daily Probiotic, Digestive Health Capsules
What Are Probiotics Used For?
Probiotics are used to help restore the balance of gut bacteria. Studies on the effectiveness of probiotics are mixed, and it is unclear how probiotics can improve health.
Probiotics are frequently taken:
- Along with antibiotics, to prevent diarrhea caused by the antibiotics
- To reduce gas, bloating, and constipation
Studies are currently investigating if probiotics may help prevent or treat:
- Stomach and intestinal infections, including C. difficile (C. diff) diarrhea
- Diarrhea, constipation, and conditions that may cause these symptoms, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- Vaginal infections
Are Probiotic Supplements Necessary?
- fruits and vegetables,
- whole grains,
- beans and legumes,
- yogurt, and
- fermented foods (kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut)
Are There Risks of Taking Probiotics?
Probiotics may not always help, but they are usually not harmful. However, there may be some risks with probiotic supplements:
- Probiotics are considered dietary supplements in the United States and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like medications, which means products may not contain what the labels claim they do
- People with weakened immune systems (such as people on cancer chemotherapy or with certain illnesses) may get an infection following use of probiotics
Talk to your doctor before adding probiotic supplements to your diet.
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