What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics allow healthy bacteria in your GI tract to thrive while inhibiting or destroying toxins released by other bacteria. The healthy bacteria in your gut help to digest food and also synthesize some vitamins.
Benefits of Probiotics
There are a lot of benefits associated with probiotics. They include: decreasing IBS symptoms (bloating, gas diarrhea, constipation), regulating intestinal transit, boosting your immune system, aiding in dairy digestion for those with lactose intolerance, restoring bacterial balance (especially after taking antibiotics), decreasing the amount of harmful bacteria in your gut that can cause inflammation, and reducing diarrhea associated with antibiotic use for acute illnesses.
Foods That Contain Probiotics
Probiotics are mainly found in fermented foods like miso, kimchi, tempeh, fresh sauerkraut, and kombucha. You can also find probiotics in yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and some soft cheeses. Look for the phrases, "live and active cultures" or "contains probiotics" if you are choosing a dairy food. Not all yogurts will contain probiotics and frozen yogurts contain little to none. Some common probiotic strains include: Lactobacillus, Bifiodobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
What to Look for in Supplements
If you are going with a probiotic supplement, there are a few things you should look out for. First, is to avoid any probiotics that are not "live." Second, look for supplements that say the number of live organisms is guaranteed through the expiration date; if not, you may not know how much of the probiotic has already degraded. While there is no recommendation for probiotic intake, the general rule of thumb is to take at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) daily.
Daily consumption of probiotics is the best way to reap the benefits!