Probiotics 101: What are they and why you should take them

Probiotics: live microorganisms, bacteria and yeasts, that are good for your health, especially digestive health. Probiotics keep your gut clean and healthy making them very helpful bacteria (not the bad kind!) - WebMD

Probiotics are naturally found in your body and can also be found in food and supplements. They are the key in maintaining a healthy and strong gut. What does this mean? Probiotics have their own ecosystem within your tummy. When it is in positive balance, they thrive in their environment, helping to fight off bad bacteria from the things that enter our body- like from the foods we eat- and move it out of the body. When their ecosystem is damaged, or out of balance, they can not fight off bad bacteria as well, and bad bacteria begin to grow and become more prominent. We may become more frequently sick, have trouble sleeping, develop rashes or pimples, or have trouble with digestion. Probiotics are a huge asset to your body. It is extremely important to keep their environment (happy and) healthy!

What does gut balance mean? When our microflora (gut bacterias and yeasts) are in positive balance it means there is more good bacteria than bad bacteria. When it is out of balance, there is more bad bacteria than good. This is called dysbiosis, and we can show symptoms of digestive trouble, yeast infections, and mucous buildup (to name a few). There will always be good and bad bacteria in your gut. As a general rule of thumb, we want to aim to have approximately 85% good and 15% bad. Good bacteria is there to fight off whatever comes into your body from food, air, skin, etc. What's important is that there is enough good bacteria to fight for you! When your body is out of balance, an environment is created for bad bacteria to thrive as opposed to good. Bad bacteria begin to grow and good bacteria can be killed off. How does this happen?!

When we eat foods high in sugar, especially processed, we feed bad bacteria as opposed to good bacteria. When we eat foods high in acidity (like pops, red meats, processed foods, etc) we change the environment of our gut. Creating a more acidic internal environment affects the growth of good bacteria. Bad bacteria again will thrive and good bacteria will plummit. In today's day and age, it is difficult to live in perfect balance. Stress can even change the internal environment of your body. Furthermore, antibiotics kill ALL bacteria, both bad and good. Replenishing good bacteria after a round of antibiotics is essential to maintaining a healthy gut balance!

So why should you consider taking a probiotic?

There are so many reasons to take probiotics! I have already listed a few above, but here is what new research is finding:

- Probiotics boost the immune system!

- They help to improve digestion and increase out absorption of vital nutrients!

- They may help to protect and fight against food-bourne illnesses!

- They help improve acne!

- They may help in reducing cholesterol!

- Helps manage eczema, especially in children!

Even more studies are underway to seek out what probiotics can do! I believe that probiotics are essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for every individual. Whether you take a supplement or increase your intake of probiotic rich foods, consider incorporating probiotics into your life!

Q&A's

What are some probiotic-rich foods?

Here is a list of probiotic-rich foods. Even if you are taking a probiotic supplement, it doesn't hurt to incorporate probiotic-rich foods as well. Different foods and supplements provide different strains of bacteria. Different strains are good for different things! Having a variety in your gut will contribute to staying in balance! Here are some products to add to your cupboard:

- Kefir (similar to yogurt, but is created by the fermentation of milk bacteria

- Yogurt

- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) and other fermented or pickled veggies!

- Kombucha (fermentation of black tea, taken as a liquid and is available at most health food stores)!

- Natto (fermented soybeans)

- Miso (fermented soybeans, rice, or barley, and is made into a paste that can be added to soups and other homemade dishes)!

How do I pick a probiotic?

Stay tuned for my featured blog post from reviews.com. They list a few probiotics based on a study they conducted, with feedback from professionals in the field. For now I'd like to leave you with these few tips on how I choose my probiotic:

1. Always buy a probiotic that needs to be in the fridge. Probiotics that are stable on the shelf will not be as bioavailable as ones stored in the fridge. This means there won't be as many active bacterial cultures ready for your gut. You will benefit most from a probiotic that must stay in the fridge.

2. For everyday maintainence, look for Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium strains (yes there are many different types)! These are the most common and most generic strains of probiotics that have multiple functions.

3. Take capsules instead of tablets. Again, the bioavailability will be much higher and your body will absorb more through a capsule than a tablet!

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