Did you know that trillions of good and bad bacteria call our bodies “home”? The good ones, living microorganisms known as probiotics, reside on our skin and in our digestive systems, particularly the gut, and are known to benefit our health by helping us:
- digest food
- balance the quantities of E. coli and other bad bacteria to help keep us from getting sick
- produce nutrients, such as vitamin K and three forms of vitamin B
With probiotics being a hot topic, scientific research continues to reveal the ways in which probiotics may boost our health. Our bodies have more probiotics—in countless varieties—than we have cells, so the topic is a complex one. For now, though, we’ll focus on two helpful groups of bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Here’s a short and sweet version of Probiotics 101:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus, also written as L. acidophilus, is found in the mouth, intestine and vagina. It comes in common foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kombucha, pickles, kimchi and tempeh. L. acidophilus may be effective in treating yeast infections, bacterial inflammation and some forms of diarrhea.
- Bifidobacterium, also written as B. bifidum, lives in our intestines and stomach, and can be found in yogurt and fermented foods as well as cured meats, some wines, sourdough bread and some vinegars. Research indicates that B. bifidum can help increase our immunity to some bacteria-borne infections, treat constipation and some forms of diarrhea, and reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and possibly ulcerative colitis.
- Both probiotics are available in supplement form.
- Common side effects of using probiotics include gas and bloating, which tend to subside with continued use.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently classifies probiotics as “food,” not “medication.”
- Current research is being conducted about a possible link between L. acidophilus and weight loss.
A prudent reminder: Although the name “probiotic” is reserved for “good” bacteria, not every good thing is good for you. Before starting to incorporate any probiotic into your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or have health concerns such as a chronic condition. Your primary care physician can help you determine which types and amounts of probiotic are best for you based on the results you want to achieve.
Finally, Teladoc can diagnose and recommend treatments for a wide variety of tummy troubles such as indigestion, gas, heartburn, diarrhea and nausea. You and your family will have instant access to U.S. board-certified doctors 24/7 wherever you are when you download the app.
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