There are several health effects of probiotics which are live microorganims found in yogurt and some dietary supplements. Probiotics are best known for helping to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as other digestive issues. Research has also found the effects of probiotics to include increasing the efficiency of the immune system and aiding in the management of lactose intolerance. There are many other theories on the health effects of probiotics which research has yet to conclusively verify.
There are several types of probiotics, the most common of which are lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria. Among these types, each strain reacts differently with the human body, making conclusive research and consistency in production extremely difficult. The effects of probiotics can only be proven by strand, not by type; scientists are seeking to find commonalities in each strand that produce the same benefits in an effort to streamline the research.
In general, probiotics have been shown to have a significant impact on the digestive system in humans. Several strands of LAB have been found to reduce the growth of bad bacteria in the digestive tract, thus helping to regulate the entire system. Studies have also shown one of the health effects of probiotics to be the reduction of symptoms experienced by those suffering from IBS. It can help to regulate the amount and frequency of bowel movements which can significantly reduce the amount of abdominal pain experienced by IBS patients.
Probiotics are also believed to have a substantial impact on the immune system. Both LAB and bifidobacteria have been shown to increase the production of immune cells in the body. This can greatly reduce the instances of respiratory infection in children and can significantly reduce the severity and duration of rotavirus in younger children. It can also protect travelers from what is known as travelers’ diarrhea, which is usually experienced after drinking the water in some countries.
Preliminary research shows that one of the many health effects of probiotics is the management of lactose intolerance. While probiotics provide no cure for this medical issue, they can help to increase the amount of lactose that people can safely consume without symptoms. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot process lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. Probiotics can convert some of the lactose a person consumes into lactic acid, thus reducing the occurrence of symptoms. While the effects of probiotics vary from person to person and from the different strands of these microorganisms, researchers continue to find new ways in which this good bacteria helps the human body.