What are probiotics?

Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Your lower digestive tract alone teems with a complex and diverse community of these bacteria. In fact, there are a greater number of bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body.

But not all of the bacteria in your body are good for you. Some research suggests that having too many of the "bad" and not enough of the "good" bacteria — caused in part by an unhealthy diet — can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body's systems. This imbalance can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, constipation or diarrhea, and various chronic health conditions.

Should I consider taking a probiotic dietary supplement?

A probiotic dietary supplement can aid your health in a variety of ways. What's of current interest is which strain of probiotic bacteria can be helpful in which areas. Lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus coagulans are the most common beneficial bacteria used in probiotic dietary supplement products. But each type — and each strain of each type — can work in different ways. Bottom line: Not all probiotics are the same, nor do they all have the same effect in the body.

What are the dietary sources of probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in:

  • Some yogurts
  • Some cheeses
  • Other dairy products that contain probiotics, such as lactobacillus milk or kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi

How can a probiotic dietary supplement affect my health?

The right type and amount of a probiotic can help you in several ways:

  • It can promote a healthy immune support.*
  • It can support a weight management program.*
  • It can prevent occasional diarrhea or constipation.*
Aug. 04, 2016 See more In-depth