Probiotics- Are They Right for Me?

When you think of bacteria, what comes to mind—contagious germs, the common cold, disinfectant spray? For some, the word alone strikes fear in their hearts. However, the right kind of internal bacteria in your gut can be more of a friend than a foe. These helpful little microorganisms are known as probiotics and they pack a mighty punch for digestive health!

So, what exactly are probiotics? The simplest way to put it—they are living bacteria that promote good health, particularly inside of your digestive system. They work by balancing out the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut to keep your body on an even keel. They also assist in keeping your body’s pH balance in line, therefore aiding in keeping your body at its healthiest. For example, some studies have shown that taking probiotics can possibly reduce allergies, relieve symptoms of UTIs, and even help with weight loss.

There are two different groups of probiotic germs:
•Lactobacillus – These are the more standard strains found in everyday items. It is usually found in yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented items. These strains commonly help with issues such as indigestion of dairy, loose stools, and unhealthy gut flora.
•Bifidobacterium – Less commonly found, this group of bacterial strains can be found in varying dairy products and has been known to aid in soothing symptoms of IBS, as well as other digestive conditions.

Whether taken separately or in tandem, these groups of live cultures work together to provide your body with the healthy bacteria it needs to promote higher energy and better digestive health. With these strains in mind, there are a few different ways you can incorporate more probiotics into your diet:
•Cultured dairy – These dairy products have been known to be chalk full of enzymes that feed on lactose, which helps create an environment more inclined to work positively for your digestion. Try increasing your intake of things such as yogurt or kefir to coat your digestive tract with healthy bacteria.
•Unpasteurized food – “Raw” or unpasteurized foods are a great way to get a natural dosage of healthy microorganisms into your system. Try adding fermented food such as kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut into your dietary routine; provided that they haven’t been pasteurized as heat treatments kill off any positive bacteria. Studies also show adding a tablespoon or two of raw apple cider vinegar to a glass of water can promote healthy bacteria inside of your stomach as well.
•Probiotic supplements – For the picky eater or those with food allergies, a probiotic supplement is a simple option that provides a large dosage of healthy cultures to the body. Though the bacteria in the capsules aren’t fully active, they are still quite alive. Some brand names have up to 14 billion live organisms in one dosage. That’s a lot of probiotic power!

With so many positive benefits and flexible options for intake, probiotics are slowly but surely becoming a standard tool for healthy living. Try it yourself and see if these powerful little microorganisms change your body for the better!