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Probiotics 101: how they can help your gut

Probiotics seem to be popping up all over the place these days. But what exactly are they and do you need them?

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that promote health, bolter your immune system and support a healthier gut. Probiotics have also been known to help prevent and treat some illnesses such as IBS, diarrhea, eczema, UTIs, and yeast infections. Some studies have also shown probiotics can help reduce the severity of colds and may help the body fight infections.

Why do I need them?
Healthy bacteria already live in your body. However, certain illnesses or antibiotics can disturb the balance of good vs. bad gut flora in your body. Probiotics help to rebuild the good bacteria.

Where can I find them?
The most common probiotics are lactobacillus acidophilus and bifido bacterium longum, although there are hundreds of others. They can be found in supplement form and in fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso.

Most health food stores have an array of probiotics, often times in the vitamin and supplement’s refrigerated section. If you’re looking to incorporate probiotics into your diet through supplements make sure to look for the following:

  1. Look for those that contain multiple strains of bacteria as they have been found to be more effective then single strain supplements.
  2. Look for supplements with an expiration date to ensure you’re getting live bacteria.
  3. Choose a control release tablet to guarantee that the bacteria make it through your stomach acid and into your intestines.
  4. Make sure probiotics are stored in a cool, dark place. Keep probiotics away from heat and moisture (steer clear of your bathroom medicine cabinet).

Are there any side effects?
Probiotic side effects tend to be minimal but some experience gas and bloating after taking.  

Written by Lisa Chase.