Probiotics — you may have seen this word on your yogurt or smoothie labels. These “good bacteria” have gained popularity in recent years, but do you really know what they can do for you?
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, often either the same as or similar to those found naturally inside of us. Our bodies contain many types of useful bacteria that actually help our bodily systems function properly.
Probiotics are typically found in food such as yogurt or fermented drinks. They are also sometimes sold as dietary supplements in pill form or even as a cream for the skin.
What’s all the fuss about?
Evidence suggests probiotics may relieve diarrhea, ease irritable bowel syndrome and reduce symptoms of eczema. There’s even some evidence that they may reduce the severity of colds and flu.
However, it’s important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any health claims for probiotics. Scientists are still studying the effects of probiotics and how they may help fight off certain harmful bacteria.
“There are billions of bacteria inside the colon,” said Dr. Satish Rao, gastroenterologist at the Augusta University Digestive Health Center. “It is believed that an imbalance in these bacteria may cause gastrointestinal symptoms and diseases, but probiotics may help to restore this balance. The great thing is that most people who use probiotics experience zero side effects or have very mild gastrointestinal issues such as gas. However, those who are pregnant, nursing or have underlying health concerns should consult their health care provider about any new supplements or complementary health approaches.”