Probiotics are food supplements that contain ‘friendly’ gut bacteria. Regular consumption of strains that survive gut transit help beneficial bacteria to increase, and those considered harmful bacteria to decrease.
Probiotics have many mechanisms of action. By their growth, they inhibit the growth and reduce harmful effects of other bacteria, antigens, and toxins. In addition, probiotics are also know to interact with the gut leading to an aquired increase of immunity.
Studies have proven that probiotic intake can improve rates of recovery from things such as rotavirus diarrheah, and may even be beneficial in alleviating some allergic and respiratory disorders.
There are a limited amount of studies that prove their effectiveness in athletes, but the interest is growing. Some initial double blind studies are showing promising results in athletes, in relation with respiratory illness, gastrointestinal problems, (particularly in long distance running) fatigue and impaired performance.
Probiotics have also been found to help with stress-induced changes in the gut in sports people, which is a promising development for long distance athletes and ultra distance athletes who regularly have to battle GI distress in race situations.
Athough it is not conclusive at the moment, there is enough research to show that the developments in understanding of probiotics and their benefits to athletes and sports people is promising.