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Probiotic bacteria favorably alter the intestinal microflora balance, inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, promote good digestion, boost immune function, and increase resistance to infection. Individuals with flourishing intestinal colonies of beneficial bacteria are better equipped to fight the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

Acidophilus and bifidobacteria maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora by producing organic compounds—such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetic acid—that increase the acidity of the intestine and inhibit the reproduction of many harmful bacteria. Probiotic bacteria also produce substances called bacteriocins, which act as natural antibiotics to kill undesirable microorganisms.

Regular ingestion of probiotic bacteria may help prevent vaginal yeast infection A review of theresearch concluded that both topical and oral use of acidophilus can prevent yeast infection caused by candida overgrowth.
Diarrhea flushes intestinal microorganisms out of the gastrointestinal tract, leaving the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Replenishing the beneficial bacteria with probiotic supplements can help prevent new infections. The incidence of traveler's diarrhea, caused by pathogenic bacteria in drinking water or undercooked foods, can be reduced by the preventive use of probiotics.

Probiotics are also important in recolonizing the intestine during and after antibiotic use. Probiotic supplements replace the beneficial bacteria, preventing up to 50% of infections occurring after antibiotic use. Probiotics also promote healthy digestion. Enzymes secreted by probiotic bacteria aid digestion. Acidophilus is a source of lactase the enzyme needed to digest milk, which is lacking in lactose-intolerant individuals. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are naturally occurring carbohydrates that cannot be digested or absorbed by humans but support the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Where are they found?Beneficial bacteria present in fermented dairy foods, namely live culture yogurt, have been used as a folk remedy for hundreds if not thousands of years. Yogurt is the traditional source of beneficial bacteria; however, different brands of yogurt can vary greatly in their bacteria strain and potency. Some (particularly frozen) yogurts do not contain any live bacteria. Supplements in powder, liquid extract, capsule, or tablet form containing beneficial bacteria are a source of probiotics.