Probiotics are strains of yeast and bacteria that help the human body maintain optimal wellness. Found primarily in the intestine, these living microorganisms play a number of roles in human health: they aid digestion, stimulate immune function, and play a role in preventing allergies, colon cancer and dermatitis. They also reduce diarrhea and help in the treatment of intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease. They help repopulate healthy intestinal flora following use of antibiotics, and in women they help control candida yeast.
There are many strains of probiotics, but among the most common are species of the bacteria Lactobacillus (including L. acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium, as well as the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. Probiotics come in many forms, including beverages, foods and supplements, both liquid and encapsulated. The most common probiotic-containing foods are live-culture yogurt, kefir and cottage cheese. Many probiotic supplements require refrigeration, though some supplements are stable at room tempurature. Suggested dose is a minimum of 1 billion live organisms daily, which translates to about eight ounces of yogurt, though certain conditions may require higher doses for efficacy.