If you have any interest in the world of food (that extends beyond eating to survive) then you’ve likely heard some buzz lately about probiotics. Simply put, probiotics are essentially a “good” bacteria made up of live microorganisms that naturally occur in the human gut and intestines. Probiotics have some lofty responsibilities in our bodies including aiding with digestion, battling the “not so good” bacteria, strengthening our immune system and overall safeguarding the health of the gastrointestinal tract.
So it’s not hard to see why these little guys are getting so much of the limelight lately. But if probiotics are naturally found in our guts, should we also turn to other sources of probiotics – such as supplements and live-culture-containing foods like yogurt – to complement what’s already there? The short answer for most of us is that it wouldn’t hurt!
Even if you’d categorize yourself as “healthy” or if you actively try to take good care of yourself, there are so many things that affect probiotic levels that you might not take into account. For example, taking antibiotics frequently or for an extended period of time can really throw off the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. So can a poor diet, stress and alcohol consumption – things that almost all of us are guilty of at one point or another. For many of us, this time of year can be especially tasking on our bellies, bodies and our overall stress levels.
But before running out and buying your probiotic supplements or stocking up on yogurt and kefir, do your research! When it comes to supplements, do some digging to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Because probiotics are living organisms, they have to remain alive in the supplement before they reach your belly in order to be effective. There are also so many different types of strains and cell counts to be aware of. When it comes to yogurt and other forms of food and beverage containing live, active cultures, there are things to consider too; if you’re regularly slurping down a high-sugar yogurt, you may be doing your gut a disservice rather than helping it.
There are certainly a lot of potential health benefits in jumping aboard the probiotic train, but like with so many other things, it’s best to do your homework first!