Probiotics comes in different kinds, and they all live together in harmony within the body.
They help to keep harmful bacteria in check, produce vitamins, and regulate the immune system.
They can also be found in food products, mainly cultured dairy products like yogurt. They have been used in medicine for their health-promoting effects for centuries; dietary supplements containing nutrients purported to help them grow have also become very popular.
A lot of research has proven the therapeutic benefit of probiotics when prescribed for disorders like diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, allergies, immune system problems, dermatitis, and preventing infection after surgery.
Early research shows probiotics may have a role in preventing colon cancer. More research is needed to see exactly how beneficial probiotics actually work to help the immune system. It may produce natural antibiotics that kill destructive bacteria, strengthen the intestinal lining or simply just crowd out other, possibly harmful, bacteria.
Probiotics is imited to dairy products because they change the freshness and the taste of other foods as they grow and ferment. But in a study out Feb. 2, in the Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers showed that it may not be necessary to have bacteria be active and fully-functioning to have immune-stimulating effects.
Scientists irradiated probiotic bacteria to slow down its metabolism, and found that the irradiated probiotics worked just as well as live bacteria in a study on mice. Researchers say these findings pave the way to using inactivated probiotics in a wider range of food products in the future.
Probiotics can play a beneficial role for some bowel disorders, but you need to talk to your doctor before you buy something off the shelf. Probiotic products are generally available only in health food stores or via the Internet. The FDA does not regulate probiotics.