Probiotics have been a subject in the news now for the last 10 years or so. What exactly are probiotics? Probiotics are a bacteria that helps maintain the healthy organisims and the good bacteria that are in our digestive system. Probiotics may provide the same health benefits as the healthy bacteria already in your digestive system and may also provide help in digestion and helping to protect you from bad bacteria. One of the most popular probiotic foods available today is yogurt. The yogurt must state on the packaging that it contains live culture. Other examples of foods that contain probiotics are fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, some juices and soy beverages. The bacteria may have originally been in the food product or may have been added to the food.

There are a few reasons why people are interested in probiotics for their health. In some instances people use probiotics after being on antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to stop infections but it also kills the good bacteria in our digestive systems. The killing of these good bacteria can cause diarrhea. Probiotics help replace the good bacteria that was lost due to taking antibiotics. Researchers are studying if probiotics can help treat or prevent certain illnesses. There is some evidence that probiotics can help but more study is needed. Some of the illnesses that are currently being studied are:

  • Infectious Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflamatory Bowel Disease such as Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Infection from Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria associated with ulcers and many types of chronic stomach inflammation.
  • Tooth Decay and Periodontal Disease
  • Vaginal Infections
  • Stomach and respiratory infections
  • Skin Infections
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Uninary Infections

In 2005 a small study done in Sweden involving employees from the same company, found that the employees given a probiotic missed less work because of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness than the employees that did not get the probiotics.

More research is needed to confirm whether probiotics are helpful but the facts so far make this hopeful.