Are Probiotics Actually Useful?

Probiotics are live bacteria commonly found in yogurt and other dairy products. Though bacteria tends to be associated with infections and disease, your body actually needs a balance of both “good” and “bad” bacteria to stay healthy. Probiotics are considered “good” bacteria that help to promote better digestive health by restoring and maintaining the balance.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics do a lot of things inside your body to increase your overall health.

  • Digestive health: There are over 1,000 types of bacteria that live inside your digestive tract, which are all necessary for helping your body to break down food and absorb nutrients. However, taking antibiotics to destroy a certain type of bacteria that is causing you to be sick will also kill the “good” intestinal bacteria that are helping to keep you healthy. As a result, you may experience diarrhea or other unpleasant gastrointestinal-related symptoms. Therefore, it can be helpful to take probiotics to help replenish your digestive tract with the healthy bacteria and prevent these side effects from occurring. Additionally, probiotics can also help to resolve other types of digestive issues that are not related to the use of antibiotics. This includes treatment for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and infectious diarrhea that is caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

  • Urinary health: Not only can probiotics help to heal urinary tract infections (in addition to antibiotics of course), but they can also help to prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract in the first place.

  • Allergies: There is recent research that suggests taking probiotics can help to reduce certain types of allergies. This includes a reduction in childhood eczema, which is an early sign of allergies found in infants.

  • Women’s health: Similarly to the digestive tract, a woman’s vagina also relies on a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in order to function correctly. When this delicate balance is thrown off, two very common (and uncomfortable) conditions can arise as a result: yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Recent studies show that regularly taking a certain type of probiotic (L. acidophilius) can help to prevent these types of infections from ever developing—especially when they are taking as vaginal suppositories rather than digested through your food.

  • Immunity: Probiotic-rich foods can help to maintain a healthy immune system and stimulate good immune system responses.

  • Obesity: Recent studies have shown that taking probiotics can help people who have recently undergone weight-loss surgeries in maintaining that weight loss. This is because people who are obese tend to have a different makeup of gut bacteria than people of normal weights, which makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight after being overweight or obese.

Are probiotics necessary?

If you are in otherwise good physical health, you don’t necessarily need to start including probiotics in your diet. However, if you have digestive problems, suffer from allergies, or frequently develop other types of infections such as UTIs or yeast infections, then taking probiotic supplements or including more probiotic-rich foods in your diet certainly will not hurt you.