Probiotics are broadly defined as live microorganisms that provide health benefits to their host (eg, people) when taken in adequate amount/quantity.7 These organisms are often found in your body, food, or other supplements and are classified as “good” bacteria. When most people hear the word “bacteria,” they think of infection or disease. However, good bacteria such as probiotics provide protection against other harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. In fact, a normal human digestive tract contains about 500–1000 strains of probiotic bacteria that work to defend vital bodily systems.8
The benefits of probiotics
Probiotics play an essential role in promoting overall health. These organisms benefit a number of areas within the body, including:
- Counteracting harmful bacteria that cause disease
- Fighting against intestinal infections
- Manufacturing vitamins
- Promoting specific immune responses
- Playing a role in the prevention of diseases, including peptic ulcers, colorectal cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Breaking down uremic toxins in the digestive tract
“Probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”7
— Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization
Probiotic supplements are gaining in popularity
While probiotics and probiotic foods have been marketed for decades in Europe and Asia, they have only recently become popular in the United States. They are most likely to be found in supplements or in dairy products such as yogurt or fermented drinks. Probiotics have been heavily promoted for their health benefits over the past several years.
However, pasteurization kills probiotic microorganisms. So, live probiotics must be added to dairy products after they are pasteurized.
But, there is one more hurdle to clear: the stomach. Probiotics in foods such as yogurt deteriorate when they come in contact with the acids in the stomach. As a result, by the time they reach the intestine, the number of live probiotics is markedly reduced.
That’s why specially designed probiotics are important, such as Renadyl™, which has a special capsule coating that protects the probiotic microorganisms as they pass through the stomach, allowing them to reach the colon intact.
As the promise of probiotics continues to emerge, scientists have begun focusing on the role of probiotic bacteria to aid digestion, boost natural defenses, and fight bacteria that could cause health problems.