Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
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It's only been since about the mid-1990s that people have wanted to know more about probiotics and their health benefits. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. And because of their newfound fame, you can find them in everything from yogurt to chocolate.
How Do They Work?
Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work. Here are some of the ways they may keep you healthy:
When you lose "good" bacteria in your body (like after you take antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them.
They can lower the amount of "bad" bacteria in your system that can cause infections or other problems.
They can help balance your "good" and "bad" bacteria to keep your body working like it should.
Types of Probiotics
Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups. Ask your doctor about which might best benefit you.
Lactobacillus. This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.