A healthy digestive tract is critical for good health. The large intestine is home to a complex and diverse community of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics -- the good bacteria -- keep pathogens in check as well as aid nutrient absorption and support digestion.
Ideally, the beneficial bacteria should outnumber the bacteria that can make us sick. But a poor diet, antibiotic use, stress, and other factors can upset this balance. Research suggests that not having enough beneficial bacteria can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, digestive issues, and a variety of ills.
Clinical trials suggest that probiotics may prevent a relapse of Crohn's disease and help people maintain remission of ulcerative colitis. They also show promising results for easing bloating and gas associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics have also been found helpful for constipation. The best evidence for probiotics is for reducing diarrhea, especially infectious diarrhea and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use.
There's a close connection between gut bacteria and the immune system -- in fact, about 80 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system. Several studies have found that certain strains of probiotics help improve immune response, and research suggests that beneficial bacteria may even help prevent upper respiratory infections.
A healthy balance of good bacteria is also linked to oral health. A recent study found that probiotics improved the efficacy of the standard treatment for periodontitis (scaling and root planing) by more than 50 percent. Research shows that some strains of probiotics may be helpful for bad breath and dry mouth, preventing cavities and tooth sensitivity, and inhibiting the development of plaque.
Probiotics also show promise for weight loss. Although the research shows mixed results, one study found that people who ingested probiotics for 12 weeks experienced reduced abdominal fat and body weight.
Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are natural sources of healthy bacteria. Probiotics are also available in supplement form. Look for a probiotic supplement with a controlled delivery system, which gradually releases beneficial bacteria throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract over an extended period of time. Controlled delivery of these organisms ensures that they remain active at consistent levels, helping to increase absorption and potency. A controlled delivery probiotic supplement offers consistent and continued support.
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