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.