Everybody knows about harmful bacteria, like E. coli, Staph aureus, Neisseria gonorrhoea and others, and how they wreak havoc on our health. But not all bacteria are bad–good bacteria reside in our gut and other places, and not only keep harmful bacteria from settling in and colonizing, but can also ward-off illness.

According to a new study out of Australia, long-distance runners taking probiotics (a supplemental mixture of “good” bacterial colonies) showed a boost in immune system function and had less respiratory illness than runners taking a placebo. These results show one potential major benefit of supplementing with probiotics.

Probiotics are bacterial and yeast mixtures with such recognizable names as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Most people take them following a round of antibiotics to help replenish the numbers of helpful bacteria in the digestive system. The many benefits attributable to probiotics are:

Taking probiotics, then, is a great way to enhance the health, especially of the digestive system. But as you can see, supplementing with these essential microorganisms has even wider-reaching effects than that. I take them regularly myself, and find them a useful supplement to eating yogurt, another great source of Lactobacillus and Bifidus cultures. So don’t fear all bugs; some microbes are necessary for life–our life. Now that’s symbiosis!

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