Harvard Health Letter

Should you take probiotics?

The "good bacteria" may help healthy people but aren't formally recommended.

Probiotics are "good" bacteria touted to help maintain digestive health and boost the immune system. You can take them in a dietary supplement or get them from food sources, such as yogurt. But should you? "They can be helpful in some cases, but we have relatively few studies to tell us if and when they are safe and effective for older adults," says Dr. Patricia Hibberd, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital who's investigating the safety of probiotics across the life span.

Benefits

Microbes in the lower intestinal tract help us digest food, fight harmful bacteria, and regulate the immune system. But sometimes an imbalance of microbes occurs, leading to diarrhea and other health problems.

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