Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts promoted as having various health benefits. They're usually added to yoghurts or taken as food supplements, and are often described as "good" or "friendly" bacteria. Probiotics are thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut (including your stomach and intestines) when it's been disrupted by an illness or treatment.
How Do They Work?
Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work.
Some of the ways they may keep you healthy:
Researchers are still trying to figure out which are best for certain health problems.
Some common conditions they treat are:
There is also some research that shows they're useful for problems in other parts of your body.
For example, some people say they have helped with:
Issues to be aware of
If you're considering trying probiotics, there are a few issues you need to be aware of.
Probiotics are generally classed as food rather than medicine, which means they don't go through the rigorous testing medicines do.
Because of the way probiotics are regulated, we can't always be sure that:
There are many different types of probiotics that may have different effects on the body, and little is known about which types are best.
You may find a particular type of probiotic helps with one problem. But this doesn't mean it'll help other problems, or that other types of probiotic will work just as well.
And there's likely to be a huge difference between the pharmaceutical-grade probiotics that show promise in clinical trials and the yoghurts and supplements sold in shops.