Recent Blog Articles

Staying Healthy

What you should know about: Probiotics

September 1, 2012

When you consider ways to stay healthy as cold and flu season approaches, consuming live bacteria may not be at the top of your list. But not all bacteria are bad for you. In fact, "good" bacteria found in food and dietary supplements may help you ward off illness this winter and throughout the year. The supplements are called probiotics. "Probiotics have been shown to secrete protective substances which turn on the immune system and prevent pathogens from taking hold and creating major disease," says Dr. Allan Walker, director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School and a world-renowned expert in the probiotics field.

The bacteria balance

Your lower gastrointestinal tract is home to 100 trillion microbes, most of which help digest food, fight harmful bacteria, and regulate your immune system. Such helpful microbes are "good bacteria." An imbalance of the good and bad bugs in your gut can make you sick. For example, germ-killing antibiotics may disrupt the balance, leading to diseases that cause diarrhea. Imbalances may also lead to certain autoimmune diseases and allergies.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.