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6 Common Benefits of Probiotics

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digestive-healthSo what can probiotics help you with?

Digestive Health

Each of us has more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts, helping us to break down food and absorb nutrients. But when we take antibiotics — medicine that is designed to kill destructive, illness-causing bacteria — the drugs can also kill the healthy intestinal flora that helps us digest. About 30 percent of the patients who take antibiotics report suffering from diarrhea or some other form of gastrointestinal distress, according to the recent JAMA study on probiotics and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. As a result, doctors commonly prescribe taking probiotics to “repopulate” the digestive tract with healthful bacteria. The study found that it was a viable solution for many.

But probiotics can also help with other types of digestive issues. Research has shown that probiotics can be helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS — a hard-to-treat condition that can have a range of intestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. In one study, female IBS patients experienced some alleviation of symptoms like abdominal pain and irregularity when they were given a supplement of the bacterial strain, Bifidobacterium infantis.

Even for those without an urgent problem, probiotics can help with overall digestive management. Challa argues in his book, Probiotics For Dummies, that good bacteria help “crowd out” bad bacteria. That’s because the intestine is lined with adherence sites where bacteria latches on. If the sites are populated with good-for-you microbes, there’s no place for a harmful bacterium to latch on.

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