The "Contains Probiotics" label on many bottles and boxes has attracted the attention of the American public. What started as a few medical practices dabbling into probiotic use has become a country-wide phenomenon, and it is easy to get lost in the fog of purported benefits and marketing scams.

It is true, though, that probiotics can help with a variety of health issues. Scientists are still looking into their benefits for everything from ulcerative colitis to knee osteoarthritis. However, probiotics are not a one-size-fits-all deal, and each strain serves a different purpose.


1. What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microbes that have been clinical tests show benefit health in some way. There are hundreds of types of microbes; the most common are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces species. The Lactobacillus genus alone contains more than 180 species. Some strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other bacteria also have probiotic benefits.

What Are Probiotics Live Microbes Tashi-Delek / Getty Images


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