Probiotics are bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of pro-biotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus, found in yogurt with live cultures, is the best known. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Probiotics are also available as dietary supple-ments. It has been suggested that probiotics be used to treat problems in the stomach and intestines. But only certain types of bacteria or yeast (called strains) have been shown to work in the digestive tract. It still needs to be proved which probiotics (alone or in combination) work to treat dis-eases. At this point, even the strains of probiotics that have been proved to work for a specific disease are not widely available. Many people use probi-otics to prevent diarrhea, gas, and cramping caused by antibiotics. Antibiot-ics kill "good" (beneficial) bacteria along with the bacteria that cause illness. A decrease in beneficial bacteria may lead to digestive problems. Taking probiotics may help replace the lost beneficial bacteria. This can help pre-vent diarrhea. A decrease in beneficial bacteria may also lead to other in-fections, such as vaginal yeast and urinary tract infections, and symptoms such as diarrhea from intestinal illnesses.
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