If you’ve taken dietary supplements, researched weight-loss methods, or even watched a yogurt commercial, you are probably familiar with the term “probiotic.” Just from the context clues, you’ve likely assumed that probiotics have something to do with your digestion system. But while they are certainly a crucial element of maintaining a healthy gut, they also have a reputation for helping with a wide range of health concerns, including yeast infections, UTIs, IBS, lactose intolerance, gum disease, obesity and even eczema. In this article, we’re going to answer four frequently asked questions about probiotics and what they do for you.
- What are Probiotics?
Before we dive into the details, let’s answer the fundamental question. What exactly are probiotics? According to the Cleveland Clinic website, probiotics are “live beneficial bacteria” that live inside you. Your body contains certain amounts of good and bad bacteria, and probiotics fall under the “good” category. In fact, they spend much of their time fighting the bad bacteria to make sure your body maintains a balanced amount of each.
Your body is a microbiome, which means it contains a variation of different times of microorganisms. In order for one of these organisms to be considered a probiotic, it has to follow a certain set of rules. Probiotics must be able to survive in your intestines, they must be able to be consumed without negative effects, and they must provide a proven benefit to your body. Which leads us to our next question:
- What do probiotics do for you?
Probiotics provide your body with several useful services. First, they help keep your body’s microorganisms balanced and in check. When you have a cold or an infection, your body experiences a surplus of bad bacteria. Probiotics attack that bad bacteria in order to restore balance and help you feel better. Probiotics also help you overcome injuries by supporting your immune system and reducing swelling and inflammation.
Probiotics hang out in your stomach and intestines in order to protect your blood stream from any bad bacteria that you might have eaten or drank. While they are at it, they also help your stomach to break down and digest food. Probiotics are in charge of separating the vitamins and nutrients from the unnecessary materials that eventually become waste. When you swallow medications, your probiotics are also quick to break that down so it can be fully absorbed.
- Where do probiotics come from?
As you can see, making sure you have enough probiotics is an important part of staying healthy. But where exactly do probiotics come from? The most common way to introduce new probiotics to your system is by eating certain foods. Fermented foods and drinks contain large amounts of probiotics. Yoghurt, sourdough bread, pickles, cottage cheese, kimchi and kombucha are just some of the tasty products you can eat and drink to get the probiotics you need.
- Should you take probiotic supplements?
If you’re don’t enjoy consuming fermented or cultured food, another option is to take probiotic supplements. Probiotics are not approved or controlled by the FDA, so there are plenty of varieties on the market. One of the benefits associated with taking a supplement is that you get to choose between specific strains of probiotics. Certain types of good bacteria are better suited to deal with certain health concerns, so be sure to consult with a healthcare professional before deciding which to take.
Types of Probiotics: How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement (healthline.com)
What are Probiotics: Probiotics: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types (clevelandclinic.org)