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You may have heard the term probiotics used on yoghurt adverts, with various companies promising that these improve your immune system, keep your tummy healthy and help with constipation.
What you may not have heard, however, is that probiotics are live microorganisms, or bacteria, that are actually beneficial for our body.
Probiotics can also be taken in tablet form, which gives the user direct and immediate health benefits.
What are the health benefits?
The health benefits of probiotics are seemingly endless.
Indeed, the bacteria has been linked to constipation relief, blood pressure lowering, irritable bowel syndrome and colitis symptom improvement, lowering cholesterol and even colon cancer prevention.
Most famously, probiotics are used for constipation and IBS relief.
In one study, a commercial strain of Bifidobacterium infants was found to improve stomach cramps and discomfort associated with conspitation.
The researchers concluded their string of experiments by saying "B. infantis 35624 is a probiotic that specifically relieves many of the symptoms of IBS".
Another type of bacteria, the Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), is also known to settle upset stomachs and improve immune efficiency.
FOS feeds on the beneficial bacteria in our stomachs and therefore increases their chances of surviving and thriving in the bowel.
This helps our immune system stay strong and healthy, as it is better equipped to fight any harmful bacteria that goes into our bodies.
How do they help?
A probiotic works by adding good bacteria to the stomach for the time it is taken.
When it does this, it stimulates other beneficial bacteria to grow and become stronger.
For example, it may stimulate other bacteria to turn on or off certain genes, which in turn, might be involved in various functions, such as immune regulation or nutrient metabolism.
"An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel," professors from the Harvard Medical School explained.
"These microorganisms (or microflora) generally don’t make us sick; most are helpful. Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function."
Posted by Laura Andrews