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The term probiotic is derived from the Latin preposition pro which means “for” and the Greek adjective biotic which means “life”. Probiotics are the nutritional supplements of live bacteria thought to be healthy for human consumption. In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations have confirmed that live microorganisms when administered in appropriate amounts can give a health benefit to the host.
The human gut is filled with living organisms. There have been 400 to 500 types of microbes found in the human gut.
Probiotics were originally only thought to affect the host by improving one system of the body. They have also been found to improve intestinal microbial balance. They impede the influx of pathogens and toxin producing bacteria.
Further research has shown that probiotics can deliver health benefits that are wide ranging and significant.
Each type of microbe has a distinct strain and a potential effect in humans. Bacillus coagulans can decrease abdominal pain and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); it also increases the immune response to viruses.
Lactococcuslactis is beneficial for immune stimulation and enhances digestive health. Lactobaccillus reuteri has shown remarkable results in preventing diarrhea in children as well as providing general illness prevention in children and adults. Saccharomyces ceresvisiae has also been helpful in treating acute diarrhea in adults and children.
The study of probiotics has advanced to a level where strands of bacteria are being mixed with positive results. A mixture of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, when taken orally, can prevent vaginitis.
Lactobacillus acidophilus when mixed with Lactobacillus casei has shown to reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance. It also has shown measurable results in immune stimulation.
Further probiotic supplement research is being conducted to find appropriate application of probiotics in food products. Probiotics have been used successfully in yogurts.