What are Probiotics?

Are you wondering just what probiotics are? Let me explain.

Imagine a long dark tunnel about 10 meters in length, teeming with a vast community of bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi.

That tunnel is your gastrointestinal tract. Now imagine a hardy group of bacteria patrolling that tunnel from mouth to anus keeping law and order and producing food. These are the probiotic bacteria and they're the good guys.

Most, but not all, of the probiotic bacteria come from the lactic acid producing bacteria. These Lactobacilli are the guys who hang out in yogurt. Lactobacilli are normal residents of your intestine, although they are not the dominant bacteria, but their presence IS an indicator of a healthy gastrointestinal microflora. They stop the bad bacteria - pathogens - from getting out of hand.

That is a fairly simplified definition but it does catch the essence of what probiotics are. If you asked the World Health Organization the "what are probiotics?" question they will give you a more official definition of probiotics.

And if you're thinking you'd rather not have your insides teeming with bacteria, think again. Laboratory animals specifically bred to be bacteria-free have poorly functioning immune systems with little resistance to disease and harmful bacteria.

what are probiotics

Discover the best probiotic for treating yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and IBS . Or see which probiotics and supplies have been the most popular sellers at Amazon. See what other readers are buying.

If your are buying supplements then you need to read about the correct storage of probiotics to ensure their viability for the longest period of time. They're not quite as delicate as some manufacturers make out but they can't survive extremes of temperature either.

Been reading about Lactobacillus plantarum 299v's remarkable success with IBS? See which foods the rest of the family can be found in. Or take alook at this list of fermented foods to see the wide variety of fermented foods that the rest of the world eat.

Check out this list of types of probiotics and read this if you're confused by the term cfu that you often see written on bottles of probiotic supplements. (It means colony forming unit.)

Find out about the negative effects of probiotics that a few people experience. Most folk do not notice any side effects of probiotics. A few find they have a little gas and bloating until their body gets used to this upsurge in good bacteria.

Need to know about Taking Probiotics With Antibiotics?

Has a friend being telling you that probiotic bacteria don't survive the trip through your digestive system? Not true! They do survive and this page on the survival rate of good bacteria shows you the evidence.

If you have HIV then the general advice has been to avoid probiotic bacteria. However a study done on probiotic safety and HIV in 2003 advised that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are generally safe for immunocompromised people but that Enterococcus strains should be avoided.

Every now and then the boffins change the name of some bacteria. This is where you can stay abreast of name changes within the probiotic world.

So - to simplify the what are probiotics question - they are small single-celled bacteria and are categorised by genus, species and strain. This is an important point because not all probiotics do the same thing or thrive in the same conditions. Some adore living up to their eyebrows in acidic gastric juices whilst others would shrivel up and die at even the thought of such a harsh environment.

If you don't pick the right probiotic for the right job, then you're simply wasting your health dollar and not helping your body.

So now when someone asks YOU "what are probiotics" you'll be able to tell them!