Probiotics refer to live microorganisms, which, when given in proper amounts, can provide health benefits to individuals. They are commonly incorporated in yogurt and other food products. Consumption of probiotic yogurt has several benefits, according to many users, studies, and marketers. These benefits include prevention of diarrhea, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and infection. They may also aid in malabsorption of lactose and reduction of blood cholesterol.
There are cases where, along with prescribing antibiotics, probiotic yogurt is also given to prevent diarrhea that can be caused by these drugs. Since antibiotics are capable of killing bacteria that cause infection, they can also kill friendly bacteria in the body. This frequently leads to the multiplication of harmful bacteria in the intestines, and thus, to diarrhea. Probiotic yogurt may also be useful in the treatment of diarrhea in some children. In clinical trials, children with fever and diarrhea have shown improvement after consuming probiotic products.
Several studies have explored the benefits of probiotic yogurt in the treatment and prevention of asthma and allergies. Results from these studies, however, showed mixed results. Some revealed reduced allergic symptoms and inflammation in most participants of the study. Another researcher found that probiotic yogurt did not make any difference.
Irritable bowel syndrome is an uncomfortable condition in which affected individuals suffer bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. A study found that IBS patients with constipation experienced less bloating and uncomfortable symptoms after eating probiotic yogurt. They also reported improvement in the frequency of bowel movements.
The immune system may also benefit from probiotics. The presence of these microorganisms in good numbers in the intestines, stomach, and reproductive organs often protects the body from the growth of harmful organisms that can cause infection. For instance, the absence of Lactobacilli in the vagina may promote the growth of yeasts and other bacteria. Microorganisms used in probiotic yogurt are also considered effective in protecting the stomach against Helicobacter pylori infection. This bacteria is known to cause ulcers and cancer of the stomach.
Lactose intolerance or malabsorption of lactose is a condition characterized by stomach gas and diarrhea after drinking milk and other dairy products. This is often due to the absence of an enzyme that breaks down the lactose in milk. Taking probiotic yogurt has been said to aid in the digestion of lactose.
Other health benefits of probiotic foods may include reduction of cholesterol in the blood and prevention of colon cancer. Studies have not proven these claims, however. Many health experts believe additional studies are needed on a larger scale before they can recommend these food products for regular consumption.