The demand for probiotics has more than tripled in the last five years as millions of consumers and medical professionals have come to realize the substantial benefits they provide to intestinal balance and the immune system. Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that occur naturally in the intestinal tract and play a key role in the digestive process. They help the body digest foods by breaking them down into their individual components such as fats, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They also prevent or limit the growth of harmful bacteria such as salmonella, clostridia and e-coli that can cause gastrointestinal disturbances and, in some cases, serious illness.

Probiotics are found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and also in miso, tempeh and some juices and soy beverages. Some researchers believe this explains the increased longevity of people in cultures where cultured dairy products and soy beverages are consumed. Because most modern diets do not contain enough probiotics, many people choose to take supplements which can be purchased at health food stores.

Stress, poor diet, antibiotic therapy and other factors can disturb the balance in the digestive tract. A probiotic supplement helps to maintain and replenish the balance of microflora in the intestine. Many people use probiotic supplements when they travel to help maintain balance in their intestinal tracts.

Since the colon is the largest organ in the immune system, proper balance can go a long way toward the prevention of disease. Probiotics can help prevent allergies and respiratory infections and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. A recent study conducted in Finland concluded that probiotics improve glucose management for people with diabetes.

In recent years medical researchers have discovered a link between probiotic deficiency and obesity. This was first discovered when gastric bypass patients who took probiotics after surgery were able to maintain or accelerate weight loss more easily than patients who didn’t take the supplements. Researchers then decided to take that concept one step forward to see if probiotic use could benefit overweight people who have not had gastric bypass surgery. The results were encouraging as researchers discovered that people with the proper balance of microflora in their digestive tracts have fewer cravings for carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol. It was discovered that obese people have different bacteria in their intestines than people of normal weight.

How do you know which probiotic supplement is right for you? Strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the most commonly used probiotic bacteria in dietary supplements. There are over 35 species of bifidobacteria and 125 species of lactobacilli which make up the majority of the “good bacteria” in your colon. Talk to your holistic health practitioner to determine the type of supplement that best suits your body’s needs and give your immune system a probiotic boost.

Author's Bio: 

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