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What Are the Functions of Probiotics?

By Skyler White

Probiotics are “good” bacterial strains often referred to as live and active cultures. They help to counteract “bad” bacteria within the body, especially following a course of antibiotics or illness, according to MayoClinic.com. They are often found in food items like yogurt and miso and generally consist of at least three bacteria--Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and certain forms of Streptococci. They function in several ways.

B-Complex Vitamin Production

Adding probiotic to your diet can actually help in the production of B-complex vitamins. According to S.K. Dah and Beth Ley in the book “Health Benefits of Probiotics,” good bacteria creates the B vitamins biotin, riboflavin, thiamine, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine within the intestinal tract. Natasha Trenev notes in the book “Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers,” that the vitamin B12 is specifically manufacturered by bacteria and aids in the creation of red blood cells. Foods like cheddar cheese, kefir, sour cream and yogurt are beneficial sources of vitamin B-producing bacteria, Trenev says.

Facilitate Absorption

Good bacterial strains help to facilitate maximum absorportion and utilization of nutrients, according to Trenev. For example, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are especially beneficial as active transite bacteria helpful in uptaking nutrients, Trenev reports. Although there are several live and active cultures, consuming specific strains like L. bulgaricus and S. thermphilus can procure optimal probiotic effects.

Regulate Digestion

Perhaps the most notable function of probiotics is their ability to regulate digestion and normalize the intestinal tract, Dah and Ley state. A 2006 study by Marine Elli et al., entitled “Survival of Yogurt Bacteria in the Human Gut” and published in “Applied and Enviornmental Microbiology” found that the bacteria Lactobacilli, S. thermophilus and Bifidobacterium effectively survived through the intestinal pathways and expelled through regulated bowel movements. This illustrates the probiotic’s digestion-enhancing qualities in helping to break down food within the intestines while regulating the bowels.

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