Probiotics are a combination of live bacteria and yeasts, which are generally good for your well-being but are especially great at promoting digestive health.
When you think of bacteria, it’s easy to immediately associate it with conditions like acne or more serious diseases. However, there are good and bad forms of bacteria. Probiotics are one of the good guys—so much so that they live naturally in your body and can help to fight off bad bacteria that can negatively affect your health.
As an organism within your body, probiotics make up what is known as the microbiome—a community of microorganisms like fungi, viruses, protozoa, and, as we’ve seen, bacteria. The microbiome is important for maintaining immunity, improving digestive health, and preventing heart disease. Probiotics may be found in the gut, mouth, vagina, urinary tract, skin, and lungs.
It’s important to note that while probiotics are commonly consumed as dietary supplements, they are also found in foods such as yogurt and kimchi and may also be ingredients in pharmaceuticals. While easy to mix up, probiotics are not to be mistaken for prebiotics—a dietary fiber that feeds probiotics and other good bacteria in your body
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics supply their health benefits primarily from the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, as well as the anus. However, probiotics have a laser focus on microorganisms in the intestine, which they work on to improve and maintain health.
Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly certain how probiotics perform their role in the body. What has been determined is that they can boost the body’s immunity against dangerous outsiders. They also work to make sure the body gets better at fending off these invaders.
In addition to immunity, probiotics perform anti-inflammatory roles within the body. Claims have also been made that probiotics may help with managing the body’s response to pain.
Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics offer a variety of health benefits. They may have the following beneficial effects on the body:
Regulate the Body’s Immune Response
Probiotics regulate the body’s immune response in different ways.
Probiotics can encourage the activities of antibodies like T cells and stop bad bacteria in their tracks by preventing them from accessing the intestine’s protective covering or barrier. They also enhance the protection offered by the intestine’s covering and stimulate an anti-inflammatory response when the body is confronted by dangerous outsiders.14
Improve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestine that can cause diarrhea, cramps, gas, and constipation. While it’s a little hard to pinpoint what causes this condition, links have been drawn to food sensitivity, brain-gut interactions, as well as bacterial overgrowth.
Probiotics can protect against harmful, IBS-causing bacteria through their bacteria-fighting properties. They also support the intestinal barrier to prevent attacks by dangerous outsiders. Studies show that probiotics may help to normalize bowel movements in people living with IBS.
Reduce Atopic Dermatitis in Children
Probiotics help manage the appearance of atopic dermatitis (an itchy skin inflammation that usually affects children) and can also provide prenatal support to prevent the baby from contracting this condition.
Probiotics may induce skin repair after facing the inflammation that led to dermatitis. They have also been shown to increase the rate of skin tissue turnover. This encourages the appearance of newer, better-looking skin.
This bacteria can also tap into its immunity-boosting abilities to reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis.
Help Manage Antibiotic-Induced Diarrhea
Taking antibiotics to manage or prevent bacterial infections can sometimes lead to diarrhea. This occurs because antibiotics tend to disturb the microbiomes in the intestine, which can cause excessive fluid to build up. The intestinal fluid build-up encourages diarrhea, and the disruption of the microbiome may also increase the risk of infections from other disease-causing organisms.
Certain probiotic strains are able to reduce the chances of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. This applies to patients of all ages, especially those above 65 who are at a higher risk of developing this condition.
May Control Obesity
There’s a chance that probiotics may help with managing weight.
In animals, some strains of probiotics have been shown to prevent weight gain when consumed with a high-fat diet.
For humans, while it isn’t always certain, there is a chance that probiotics can cause a significant decrease in body weight and body fat after continuous use over a period of weeks or months. This is made possible by the manipulation of gut bacteria by probiotics.