The word â€œprobioticâ€ is a compound of two Greek words: "pro," to "signify promotion of," and "biotic," which means â€œlife.â€ Their very definition is something that affirms life and health. That's true even by modern standards â€” the World Health Organization defines a probiotic as any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested. Similarly, the USDA defines a probiotic as "any viable microbial dietary supplement that beneficially affects the host."
Most people think of yogurt when talking about probiotics. The latest probiotic research suggests that live-active cultures of these friendly bacteria can help to prevent and treat a wide variety of ailments, according to an article in the Huffington Post.
Interest in probiotic interventions is increasing, according to the authors of a recent meta-analysis of previous research. As reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA) their findings showed probiotics were particularly useful against a common gastrointestinal problem: antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
But studies show that probiotics can help with a great deal more, including warding off infection and boosting immune systems, as well as helping to improve womenâ€™s health and perhaps even fighting obesity.
Humans have more than 1,000 different types of bacteria living in their digestive tracts, helping to break down food and absorb nutrients.
But antibiotics â€” medicine designed to kill destructive, illness-causing bacteria â€” can also kill the healthy intestinal flora that helps us digest. Approximately 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 suggest taking probiotics to "repopulate" the digestive tract with healthful bacteria. The study found that it was a viable solution for many.
One theory is that good bacteria help "crowd out" bad bacteria. If the intestinal tract is populated with healthful microbes, thereâ€™s no place for harmful bacteria to latch on.
While yogurt may be among the most easily recognized probiotic-containing food, many other foods contain live probiotic cultures, including sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha tea.