Probiotics are promoted as a natural health remedy to do everything from solving gastrointestinal problems to helping with weight loss.
The challenge for consumers is to determine how many of the health claims are accurate, and also the best way to add probiotics to their diets.
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Probiotics are "live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called ‘good’ or ‘helpful’ bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy," says WebMD
But as medical researchers have poured dollars and hours into determining how probiotics work in the body, and what health conditions they will help, many consumers are buying probiotic supplements without understanding this natural remedy.
Probiotic supplements, or foods that naturally contain or have been supplemented with probiotics, such as yogurt, can actually contain a variety of bacteria strains, and the strain you take impacts what part of the body or medical issue is helped.
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Lactobacilli, which occurs naturally in yogurt and other foods, and bifidobacteria are the most common strains of probiotics, but even among those two there are numerous different species to take into account as well. Often, when probiotic research makes the headlines, the result was studied for only one or two strains of a specific probiotic. Knowing what you want to take for certain conditions is important.
For instance, diarrhea in children associated with rotovirus is sometimes treated with Lactobacillus GG, according to WebMD
. But when treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea, providers may add Lactobacillus rhamnosus to the L. GG. To find out what works best in your medical situation, consult your provider.
Another consideration when adding probiotics to your supplements is dosage. Probiotics are typically measured in CFUs, or colony forming units. On the package, it may be written as in 10 billion CFUs per dose, for instance. According to LiveStrong
, 1 to 2 billion CFUs is adequate for maintenance of good bacteria in the body, while doses of 10 billion or more may be necessary for taking on a problem like diarrhea.
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