For one reason or another, bacteria tend to down-talked. They are living organisms—some cause illness, sure, but some are very useful and even essential. What we commonly hear referred to as “good bacteria” are those probiotics. You may have seen on the side of a yogurt container that it contains “live and active cultures”. If so, they are referring to the presence of live, good bacteria. So, why would you want to ingest bacteria? What are probiotics, really?
What are Probiotics
At any given time you have hundreds of bacteria living inside you. There are good ones and bad ones—but in a healthy body, most are “good”. In the digestive system alone, there are more than 100 trillion microorganisms working together to aid digestion, promote nutrient absorption, and keep your immune system functioning optimally. Knowing this information alone can help you realize how crucial it is to maintain these good bacteria for proper gut health.
The most common probiotics we see are:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
Several of these bacteria are responsible for healthy digestion. When something happens to alter their concentration or hurt them, your digestive health (and in women, your vaginal and urinary health) suffer. For this reason, many people include probiotics in their daily diet, and supplement when they aren’t getting enough in their food.
According to research, probiotics can assist people who suffer from digestive illnesses and disorders including Crohn’s disease, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and even plain-old diarrhea.
In women, the health of the vagina and urinary tract are similarly dependent on these good bacteria. Like the digestive system, these areas are a virtual ecosystem of inter-dependent organisms that all work to maintain optimal health. When something like an antibiotic or illness depletes their population, infections are common. Probiotics for female reproductive health may be useful in the treatment and prevention of yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and bacterial vaginosis.
In fact, gut health has been repeatedly tied to things like chronic illness, weight, mental health, and overall health.Your gut is an orchestra of organs, bacteria, fungi, mucous, and other protective measures. When one instrument is out of tune, it prevents nutrients from being processed and distributed through the body. The importance of beneficial bacteria makes the benefits of probiotics invaluable. They could even make you more attractive.
Ingesting more Probiotics, Beneficial Bacteria
So how can you get more of these little guys in your diet?
There are several fermented foods which contain healthy bacteria. These include things like fermented cheese and yogurt. But, if you’re vegan or looking for other alternatives: there is sauerkraut, Korean kimchi, and numerous fermented drinks like kombucha tea that you can buy at the local health food store or make at home.
As an alternative, you can also find probiotic supplements at most health food stores. Here’s what to look for:
- At least 15 billion live bacteria in each capsule
- A supplement with different probiotic strains (multiple types)
- One labeled as acid and bile resistance (be cautious of the ingredients in the protective coating, however)
- A trusted and recognized brand
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