“Probiotic” literally means “promoting life.” You may already know about probiotics, the so-called “good” bacteria. These microorganisms are found in supplements and foods, and are generally supposed to be good for you. Let’s look at some of the claims that have been made about probiotics to help you understand whether they are an element you can incorporate into your healthy lifestyle.

Good Bacteria

As we age, we become increasingly susceptible to a wider variety of infectious diseases because of the suppression of our immune systems. We also have significantly fewer friendly bacteria and more harmful bacteria in our intestines than younger adults, leading to a marked decrease in gastrointestinal function and an increase in infections and other bowel conditions. Sometimes we combat these issues with antibiotics, which reduce the levels of all strains of bacteria in our intestines, both good and bad.

Probiotics are used to offset these negative impacts, and to promote increased overall digestive health. Most probiotic products are either ingredients in food or come in the form of dietary supplements. There has not been clinical substantiation for these products, so none of them can legally make claims to have any specific health benefits, but many swear by the health benefits they say they feel after incorporating more probiotics into their diet.

There are several different types of probiotics, and they work in several different ways. Some probiotics prevent harmful bacteria from growing in your intestines. Others aid in the production of substances that prevent infection. Still others may increase the production of antibodies to boost your immune system, and destroy or inhibit the toxins that “bad” bacteria release. There may also be probiotics which produce vitamins that help metabolize food during digestion, fortify your nervous system, keep your skin healthy, and even in fend off anemia.

Probiotics 101

Manufacturers often register trademarks for the specific probiotic strains used in their products, but these don’t necessarily indicate the actual quality of the product. When you look into a product, check to make sure that the claims regarding that specific probiotic were based on sound research. Even within the same species, different strains may not provide the same benefits. Always check the product packaging for any warnings, and be aware of any potential side effects. Finally, as with any other supplement, always consult with your physician before changing your regimen.

While you may not necessarily need probiotics, they may aid in digestion and provide additional protection from harmful bacteria. If you still have questions about probiotics, you can always rely on HealthMarkets to help answer your questions.We’re here to make sure you have the health insurance you need – and it won’t cost you a penny to discuss your options. Contact HealthMarkets Insurance Agency today to get the answers you’re looking for.

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