When bacteria are taken to improve health, they are considered “probiotics.” Probiotics are officially defined as “live micro-organisms that may confer a health benefit on the host”. Although the idea of ingesting micro-organisms may be strange, but most of us eat different types of probiotics every day in the form of yoghurt, sauerkraut and cheese.
A more useful description is that probiotics are generally bacteria or yeasts that help you remain healthy. After growing up in an environment that encourages the use of anti-bacterial soap and antibiotics, this may seem confusing. How can it be that something that is known for years to make people ill, actually also keep people healthy?
It is important to realize that our environment is anything but sterile. It’s teeming with bacteria and this is also true for the body. Research has found that both the outsides and insides of our bodies are breeding grounds for bacteria and other microorganisms like yeast. This does make sense as we’re warm and are continually providing nourishment in the form of dead skin and ingested food. The colon, the most bacteria rich area in the body, is known to harbour trillions of bacteria.
So how does beneficial bacteria function in the body?
- Probiotics can make it more difficult for pathogenic bacteria to survive in the micro-environments of the body.
- Probiotics can interact with the cells of the body and make them increase their defences against invading micro-organisms.
- Probiotics can enhance the function of the immune system.
There are a number of diseases where it is very clear that probiotics can be successfully applied. They are helpful in antibiotic-induced diarrhoea when antibiotics kill off the intestinal flora and leave it out of balance. There is also evidence that they are effective for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, eczema and the common cold.