Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your body that help you absorb food and protect your immune system. Probiotics are in supplements and certain foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Research shows probiotics can help in treating some digestive problems. Indications show probiotics may also benefit other conditions. Your doctor may prescribe supplements or foods with natural probiotics to support changing the bacteria in your intestines. For example, probiotics may be recommended after taking antibiotics. Antibiotics fight bacteria in the body without discriminating between "good" and "bad" strains. Probiotics show promise in replacing the body's "good" bacteria.
If you are interested in taking probiotics, consider these facts and talk to your doctor:
- There are different strains of probiotics. If your doctor prescribes one, find that exact strain.
- One probiotic strain will not work the same for everyone; everybody has slightly different bacterium. The types of bacteria in your body depend on your lifestyle and health. For example, changing your weight can change the bacteria you have in your body.
- Probiotic supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like medications are. Manufacturers do not have to prove the claims listed on their bottles before selling them.
- Probiotics can be expensive.
- Taking probiotic supplements is safe for most people but may cause mild side effects. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking.
- Food sources of probiotics are a less powerful but safer than supplements. When buying yogurt, look on the label for live and active cultures.
Does everyone need to take probiotics? No, not unless a doctor recommends them for a health condition. Can it hurt to take probiotics? For most people, no. Consider eating these fermented foods that are rich in probiotics:
Try eating a probiotic-rich food this week (see list above).
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