Probiotics: A User’s Guide

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How Probiotics Work

Thinking about taking a probiotic?  You may have seen them at the pharmacy, listened to a friend wax poetic about how probiotics changed her life, or watched Jamie Lee Curtis sing their praises in Activia commercials.  So, let’s learn a little more about them.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (e.g., bacteria), similar to the beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human gut, and may be beneficial to health.  In the United States, probiotics are available as dietary supplements (including capsules, tablets, and powders) and in dairy foods (such as yogurts with live active cultures).  They’re often used for a variety of gastrointestinal conditions including infectious diarrhea, diarrhea associated with using antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease).

Probiotics may improve your health by:

  • Altering the intestinal “microecology” (e.g., reducing harmful organisms in the intestine)
  • Producing antimicrobial compounds (substances that destroy…

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