What are probiotics?
Did you know that trillions of bacteria and other organisms live in your gut? Probiotics play an important role in helping you maintain a healthy gut. Here are some important facts about using probiotics, and where to find them.
- What are probiotics?
Long story short: probiotics are “good” bacteria. Your digestive system is home to lots of bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms, some good and some bad. A healthy "gut flora," as this group of microbes is called, contributes to healthy immune and digestive systems. When there is an imbalance between good and bad bacteria, you may become vulnerable to infections, including yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Diarrhea can also occur when the delicate balance between the two kinds of bacteria is lost.
- What foods contain probiotics?
More and more food manufacturers are offering consumers probiotic-fortified products. A trip down the dairy aisle at your local grocery store will reveal yogurts, soft cheeses, and cottage cheeses labeled as probiotic. The probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium are two of the more common ingredients. Fermented foods are growing in popularity as well. Tempeh, kombucha, miso soup, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, and other fermented foods may also be a source of some probiotic culture.
- Will eating probiotic foods really help me?
Not necessarily. It's important to note that not all food products containing probiotics are able to survive in the acidic environment of your stomach. Think of eating probiotics as a preventive measure, rather than as a treatment. While probiotics aren't absolutely necessary to stay healthy, they may help protect against some harmful bacteria and aid with digestion. However, some supplements can interfere with certain medications and are not always right for everyone, especially people with weakened immune systems. Consult your health care provider if you're considering taking probiotic supplements.
- There are so many probiotic supplements – how do I know which one to choose?
Probiotic supplements usually consist of a combination of different microorganisms. Commonly used bacteria include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Other bacteria and yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii are also used. Different products also come in different strengths, changing the amount of microorganisms per dose. Studies usually test a specific combination of microorganisms, at a specific strength, for certain conditions or uses. If you need help or more information, talk to your pharmacist about the best supplement for you.
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