When people think of bacteria, they usually think of the organisms that cause illnesses like pneumonia, strep throat, or other infectious diseases. In a way, they’re right. Some bacteria can cause diseases and make us sick, but other kinds of bacteria live inside us and aid with digestion, help the body create antibodies, and more.

Types of Good Bacteria

Many kinds of beneficial bacteria live in our bodies, and these are most often called “probiotics”. Probiotics can be found in many kinds of foods, including yogurt, cheese, miso, and even chocolate. Probiotics most often aid with digesting certain vitamins, minerals, and prevent gastrointestinal infection. They can also interact with the body’s immune system in various ways that can improve the immune system’s response to foreign bacteria and viruses.

The most common probiotics include:

·       Lactobacillus

This kind of bacteria is most often found in the digestive and urinary tracts, and aid in preventing urinary and bowel complications, and building resistance to infections in those areas. There are many strains of Lactobacillus, and supplements can be found in yogurts and miso.

·       Bifidobacteria

This kind of bacteria lives primarily in the gut and gastrointestinal tract. These strains typically help with digestion and can prevent symptoms of IBS in children and adults. In some cases, bifidobacteria may help improve cholesterol levels as well.

·       Streptococcus thermophilus

This type of bacteria is pretty straightforward, as it produces lactase, the chemical our bodies need to digest dairy products. Since lactase helps the body break down sugars found in milk and dairy products, streptococcus thermophilus may also help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance.

What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Bacteria?

Overall, there isn’t much of a difference between what we see as “good” bacteria and what we see as “bad” bacteria. Both function and reproduce similarly, but instead of causing harm to the body, “good” bacteria helps instead of hinders. Bacteria can help our bodies do things it normally wouldn’t be able to—like digest the sugars in dairy products.

A Delicate Balance

Regardless of how “good” some bacteria may be, our bodies still work like just about any other ecosystem. To function at its best, the human body must maintain a delicate balance between what is deemed “good” and “bad”. If there are either too many probiotics in the body or too little, the body’s immune system, digestive system, and gastrointestinal tract could be thrown off balance. To help keep this delicate balance in your internal ecosystem, consider talking with your doctor if you have any questions. You know your body best, and if something feels wrong, tell someone!

 

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