Can probiotics contribute to a healthy gastrointestinal system?

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Dr. Jorge A. Gilbert, MD
Gastroenterologist

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. 

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

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.
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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.