Great question! and one I field often in my practice. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that normally colonize the human gastrointestinal system - in particular the colon or large intestine. In the gut, probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, help to prevent and treat a variety of conditions through several mechanisms:
- aid digestive processes to allow for absorption of nutrients;
- support breakdown of excreted toxins and help to prevent their reabsorption into the body;
- compete with pathogenic or "bad" bacteria, yeasts and parasites for nutrients and space, preventing infections;
- promote elimination of wastes by normalizing bowel movements (not too hard, not too soft!);
- balance immune system functions through complex mechanisms of "teaching" mechanism to produce more healthful (symptom-reducing) profiles of antibodies and signalling molecules.
Yes, probiotics do a LOT for us. We can support them by enjoying a healthy diet, eliminating foods that irritate our gastrointestinal systems, stress, and antibiotic use.