Probiotics are bacteria normally found in the human bowels. They can also be called good bacteria. Probiotics are consumed as dietary supplements to aid in preventing or treating certain illnesses and for overall good health. There is not much evidence to support the use of probiotics and more scientific proof is needed to know their exact benefit and proper dosage. Always make your physician aware when you are taking probiotics.

Health Benefits

Our bodies contain both good and bad bacteria. In a healthy individual, the balance between the good and bad bacteria is crucial. When bad outweighs the good bacteria, it affects our overall health. Antibiotics have no prejudice and will kill both good and bad bacteria. Taking probiotics while on an antibiotic medication helps to replenish the good bacteria and may be able to offset side effects antibiotics cause such as indigestion, gas and bloating. Some disease carrying bacteria, fungi and parasites can enter the body and disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria. Researchers are looking into whether probiotics can halt or suppress their growth.

Foods Containing Probiotics

Certain foods contain probiotics. A yogurt advertised on television, Dannon's Activia yogurt, contains probiotics. Fermented and unfermented milk, certain juices and soy juice also provide probiotics.

Side Effects and Risks

More research is needed to provide answers on the safety and validity of taking probiotics especially in regard to young children and the elderly. The side effects are generally mild if they occur and are normally digestive in nature such as gas or bloating that my go away with use. Always make sure to discuss your probiotic usage with your doctor as probiotics should not be used in place of conventional medical care.

How Long To Use Probiotics

Probiotic usage does not have timetable. As far as finding relief from gastronomical upset, you could find relief in a few days to a few weeks. You can continue taking probiotics every day as the bacteria is already found in your body. You can also go off and on probiotics as you feel you need them such as when taking antibiotics or when digestive upset occurs. There is no rule as to how long or how often to take probiotics and the use will be up to the individual.

Types of Probiotics

There are several different probiotics on the market but the most common are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Each provides different benefits. Lactobacilli helps with digesting dairy products, treating diarrhea associated with antibiotic use, and prevents the over growth of disease causing microbes such as E. coli and salmonella. Bifidobacteria produces acids that help balance the pH level in the intestines. It also helps in limiting bacteria that produces nitrates. Nitrates are toxic to the bowel and can lead to cancer.