Can probiotics contribute to a healthy gastrointestinal system?

Probiotics are "good bacteria" in foods and supplements. People already grow good bacteria in their intestines. If the balance of good bacteria is upset, however, the health of the gastrointestinal (GI) system may be compromised. Probiotics are used to correct this imbalance.

The balance of bacteria is upset when certain types of bacteria, fungi, or parasites out-number good bacteria, causing GI discomfort. In addition, antibiotics can kill good bacteria. Probiotics may help GI discomfort if taken along with or after antibiotic doses.

Probiotics can help treat diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, and shorten the life of some intestinal infections.

Dr. Jorge A. Gilbert, MD

In the intestine, "good" bacteria is present to help digest the food we eat. Also, 80% of the immune system is located in the gut, so the good bacteria help fight infections against bad bacteria. Taking a probiotic can help aide in digesting foods, particularly foods that a person is sensitive to. Probiotics also enhance the synthesis of B vitamins and increase calcium absorption. Probiotics also help promote healthy good bacteria, especially if the patient is taking an antibiotic as some antibiotics can kill off the good bacteria. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.