Probiotics

From WikiMD

Live, nonpathogenic, nontoxic microbial organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They can be found in yogurt and other fermented foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products.

Probiotics - mechanism of action
Probiotics - mechanism of action

Although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful “germs,” many are actually helpful. Some bacteria help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. Many of the microorganisms in probiotic products are the same as or similar to microorganisms that naturally live in our bodies.

What types of bacteria are in probiotics?

Probiotics may contain a variety of microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Other bacteria may also be used as probiotics, and so may yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii.

Different types of probiotics may have different effects. For example, if a specific kind of Lactobacillus helps prevent an illness, that doesn’t necessarily mean that another kind of Lactobacillus or any of the Bifidobacterium probiotics would do the same thing.

Probiotics
Probiotics

Are prebiotics the same as probiotics?

No, prebiotics aren’t the same as probiotics. Prebiotics are nondigestible food components that selectively stimulate the growth or activity of desirable microorganisms.

What are synbiotics?

Synbiotics are products that combine probiotics and prebiotics.

How popular are probiotics?

The 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) showed that about 4 million (1.6 percent) U.S. adults had used probiotics or prebiotics in the past 30 days. Among adults, probiotics or prebiotics were the third most commonly used dietary supplement other than vitamins and minerals. The use of probiotics by adults quadrupled between 2007 and 2012. The 2012 NHIS also showed that 300,000 children age 4 to 17 (0.5 percent) had used probiotics or prebiotics in the 30 days before the survey.

Probiotic-associated therapeutic curli hybrids
Probiotic-associated therapeutic curli hybrids

How might probiotics work?

Probiotics may have a variety of effects in the body, and different probiotics may act in different ways.

Probiotics might:

  • Help your body maintain a healthy community of microorganisms or help your body’s community of microorganisms return to a healthy condition after being disturbed
  • Produce substances that have desirable effects
  • Influence your body’s immune response.
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