Probiotics are supplements that are meant to help promote the natural symbiotic relationship between you and the colonies of beneficial microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Many different strains of microbes establish themselves in the intestine from infancy, helping to digest food, fight off infections, synthesize vitamins and promote the production of useful cells. There are times, however, when these colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeast cells are reduced in number and effectiveness.
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A serious infection, the introduction of a new strain of bacteria from food or water, or the use of antibiotics that do not discriminate between "bad" and "good" bacteria can all upset the balance of these colonies, causing gastrointestinal problems. When this happens, many doctors recommend probiotics to help restore the population of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
There are many different strains of bacteria that live, naturally, peacefully and beneficially, in your digestive tract. Each strain helps you in a different, specific way. To aid in providing a wide range of different types of beneficial microbes, many probiotic supplements include a combination formula that may help boost their presence in your body. Generally speaking, most formulas include some strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria and nonpathogenic saccharomyces yeast, such as saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer's yeast or baker's yeast.
The concept of probiotics use was first developed in Europe in the early decades of the twentieth century and has long been popular in Europe and Japan. In recent years, interest in probiotic supplements has increased in the United States, and many probiotic formulas and types are now available. A wide range of scientific medical studies concerning probiotics and their effects have been performed and, while these studies have shown some promising results, no direct correlation between the use of probiotic supplements and their benefits have been definitively proven. It has been shown, however, that the use of probiotic supplements has no serious side effects, except for occasional reports of intestinal gas.
The theory of probiotics is that as microorganisms – bacteria and yeast – live, they produce secretions as part of their metabolism. Depending upon the type and strain of the microorganism, these secretions can produce various benefits: some trigger your body's production of particular antibodies, which can help fight infections, while others help promote the production of mucus on the intestine walls that reduces the likelihood of harmful bacteria from establishing themselves. Other bacteria produce compounds that destroy the toxins produced by infectious germs, and still others help your body synthesize the vitally important B-complex vitamins. The combination formulas of some probiotic supplements are meant to provide a wide variety of microorganisms, to allow for a broad range of potential benefits.
Although medical studies have not shown any harmful side effects from the use of probiotic supplements, it is best to consult with your physician before beginning a course of use. This will help bypass any difficulties caused by interactions with an existing condition or the effects of any medication already being used.
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