Probiotics are "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host". Probiotic organisms have a symbiotic relationship with our bodies, they work together for our defense, helping maintain the natural balance of good and bad bacteria. These tiny living cells can greatly benefit the immune system and aid digestion when added to a healthy diet. Probiotics play a role in 70-80% of our immune response and can produce antibiotic chemicals – nature’s own way of helping us fight off disease and illness. There are more than 100 known benefits from taking probiotics, and claims that they fight colds, stop diarrhea, prevent cavities, and fight cancer have caused a surge in interest in these friendly bacteria.
Probiotics are already in our body, in the trillions! It has been estimated that more than 1000 different species, or types, of bacteria make their homes on humans. Found thoughout the human body, they are mostly located in the digestive tract. And they outweigh our brain – the sum of all of them together would weigh 3.5 pounds!
Probiotics are identified at the genus, species and strain level – no two are alike. Many different probiotics have been identified, each one can potentially serve a different purpose. When looking for foods and/or capsules that contain probiotics in them, look for the words “live active cultures” on the packaging. There may also be a “colony forming units” (CFU) number on it; the minmum effective dose (M.E.D.) of 10 billion CFU recommended by leading microbiologists. If there isn’t a number on the product, you may want to find one that does label the CFUs in order to ensure you will be benefiting from the probiotics. (A special note about capsules - they may be individually wrapped and they may need to be refrigerated, make sure all the instructions are followed for proper storage to ensure the culture stays alive.)
Probiotics can be found in the following items (this is not an exhaustive list): soy beverages, yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kim chi, brewer's yeast, milk (fermented and non-fermented).
In addition to the above-mentioned sources of probiotics, drinking Kombucha, a symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast (the acronym used for this combination is SCOBY), is becoming increasingly popular. People who drink kombucha report benefits like enhanced wellbeing, increased energy and even weight loss. Research has shown that kombucha may have anti-microbial effects against harmful bacteria like E. coli, a range of vitamins and minerals, and possibly anti-fungal properties.
Regardless of the form they come in, probiotics are an easy way to aid the body in performing to the best of its ability!