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What Are the Different Medical Uses of Beneficial Bacteria?

A.E. Freeman
By A.E. Freeman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, may be able to help treat certain infections, such as urinary tract or yeast infections in women. The bacteria can also be used to treat gastrointestinal issues. For example, these bacteria may help people who have irritable bowel syndrome. Other medical uses of probiotics include treating eczema, reducing the duration of the flu or common cold, and helping to reduce the recurrence of some cancers.

Taking beneficial bacteria in supplement form or eating yogurt that contains the bacteria can help to treat or prevent vaginal yeast infections in women. The bacteria helps to lower the pH of the vaginal area, creating an environment that is inhospitable to Candida albicans, the yeast that commonly causes infections.

Eating one 6- to 8-ounce container of yogurt daily typically helps to prevent infections or help current infections resolve. The yogurt should be unsweetened or artificially sweetened for best results. Women who do not eat yogurt may wish to take a probiotic supplement containing the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Beneficial bacteria can also be used to help patients who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gastrointestinal disorder that occurs in the colon and commonly causes stomach cramping, diarrhea, and gas. Someone with IBS may not naturally produce enough beneficial bacteria in his colon, so supplementing with yogurt that contains probiotics or with a capsule can help reduce symptoms. The addition of probiotics can also help to ease and relieve any symptoms a person is experiencing.

Probiotics can help restore the balance of bacteria in a person's system after he has been treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics generally kill all bacteria, harmful and healthy, leaving a person's system out of balance. The bacteria can help to treat diarrhea caused by antibiotics, as it restores the good bacteria in the intestinal tract.

Other medical uses of beneficial bacteria include using it to boost the immune system and reduce the duration of common illnesses, such as the cold or the flu. The bacteria either competes with the invading viruses or bacteria or improves the function of the immune response to help a person recover more quickly. The bacteria can also prevent atopic dermatitis in children.

The bacteria can also help with bladder and urinary tract problems. It may reduce a person's risk of bladder cancer and can lessen the duration of an urinary tract infection. Either a serving of yogurt daily or a probiotic supplement can help reduce the risk of bladder problems.

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Discussion Comments

By SkyWhisperer — On Jan 15, 2012

@Mammmood - There are other ways to get those good bacteria into your system besides using yogurt however. You can try herbal supplements.

I’ve heard that goldenseal and licorice, to name a few herbs, can be mixed together in a concoction to create a useful blend that will help cleanse your system.

Of course you can just take this stuff in tablets or as a liquid supplement, whatever you feel most comfortable with.

By Mammmood — On Jan 14, 2012

@miriam98 - When the vast majority of people hear the word “bacteria,” they think of its negative connotations. As a result bacteria get a bad rap.

Of course, there are bad bacteria that get implicated in a host of illnesses, but there are also beneficial uses of bacteria for humans, and that comes as news to most people.

Your example is a perfect one. I eat a cup of unsweetened yogurt from time to time to relieve indigestion and strengthen my immune system. The bacteria in the yogurt go to work by acting as a force field if you will against the bad, invading bacteria in your body.

The good bacteria also help in the digestion of food as well, kind of like fiber does in your body. I recommend that people eat at least a cup of yogurt a day if they are having digestive problems of any sort.

By miriam98 — On Jan 13, 2012

When I lived in Asia the locals used to drink this stuff that was like liquid yogurt in a small bottle. The stuff was sold everywhere and it was basically a probiotic.

It tasted like sour yogurt to me, but health-wise it was supposed to be really good for you. Over in Asia (at least the area in which I lived) there was a lot of sickness in the air.

Doctors would overprescribe antibiotics in my opinion but in a way to stave off sickness and disease the local people would drink this yogurt stuff in abundance and they claimed that it worked wonders.

I don’t know if it did me any good really, but it did soothe my upset stomach.

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