What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live, active bacteria that are beneficial to your immune system. There are around 500 different types of bacteria that normally live in our digestive systems. Some of them can be harmful, but many are good for us – they help us digest food and improve immune system function. Sometimes, the balance of bacteria in our digestive systems may be thrown off. This can happen if you’ve been sick or when you’re taking antibiotics, which kill the harmful bacteria but can kill the good bacteria too. So although it sounds strange to eat bacteria, taking probiotics can help restore the good bacteria so your system will be back in balance.
Why should I take probiotics?
There are many benefits to taking probiotics. As mentioned, they help to digest food and promote optimal digestion. This can prevent diarrhea, constipation, and even cancer. It can also increase the amount of minerals you absorb from your food. And as an added bonus, taking probiotics improves your metabolism, which is the process of converting the food you eat to energy. Probiotics are especially beneficial to fat metabolism, helping you to burn fat rather than store it!
Probiotics also help improve immune system function. Your digestive system is actually your first line of defense against bacteria and other pathogens. When your digestive system is working well, these pathogens are destroyed in the stomach and intestines. Probiotics also build up your immune system by giving it a challenging yet safe bacteria to resist. This helps it become stronger and better able to fight off the harmful bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Therefore, taking probiotics helps prevent diarrhea along with the common cold and flu.
How much should I take?
You can take in probiotics from the food you eat or from supplements. Foods that contain probiotics include soy drinks, aged cheese, yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut tempeh, kimchi, and miso. Experts don’t know the exact amount of probiotics we need. Basically, as long as you take enough that they can grow in your intestines, you can benefit from them. The normal doses of supplements range from 50 million to 1 trillion live cells. Follow the directions on the supplement you buy, or talk to your doctor if you’re not sure. If you’re taking in probiotics through the food you eat, including them as part of a balanced diet should provide enough probiotics to keep you healthy.
Don’t forget to include prebiotics, too. Prebiotics are food for probiotics, and are necessary to keep probiotics functioning in your body. Prebiotics are a type a carbohydrate that humans can’t digest, but bacteria can. They’re found in foods like bananas, honey, whole wheat, oatmeal. They’re also in many vegetables: leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and legumes. Eating a healthy diet that includes probiotic and prebiotic foods is a good way to get in this healthy combination. You can also take prebiotics as a supplement, or take a supplement that combines probiotics and prebiotics to get both at the same time.