Probiotocs—why you need them, how to incorporate them into your diet and how they affect your health. If you are considering taking any kind of supplement, consult with a medical professional first.
WHAT IT DOES: Probiotics are microorganisms – such as bacteria and yeasts – that are good for your health; in fact, your body has a lot of beneficial bacteria similar to probiotics, especially in the gastrointestinal system. So it's not surprising that many people take probiotics to resolve stomach flu, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and digestion problems. Probiotics are thought to boost the immune system and help fight off infections, although scientific research hasn't caught up to the popularity of probiotics. More study is needed to determine whether they're effective for treating certain types of problems.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE: Probiotic supplements are generally measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). Generally, a daily dose is considered 1 billion CFUs (that may sound like a lot but the human body has 100 trillion bacteria). However, the dosage may differ depending on the health issue being addressed.
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET: Two of the most common probiotic groups are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics are in foods such as yogurt and dairy products (buttermilk and kefir among them), juices and fermented food such as miso and tempeh. Labels should read "live active cultures." They can also be added into other foods or consumed as a supplement in pills, powders and liquids. Because probiotics are live organisms, it's important to carefully follow the product's storage instructions.
HEALTH IMPACT: Although side effects such as gas, bloating, or allergic reaction don't often occur, consult with your doctor about your probiotic consumption. Not only can probiotics interfere with some medications or pose potential problems for people with compromised immune systems, there are many kinds of probiotics, which means they have many different effects on the body. It's important to be monitored while using supplements.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENT BRANDS:
Over the counter: Align, Culturelle, Garden of Life, GNC, Jarrow, Kyo-Dophilus, Lee Swanson Genetic Designed Nutrition, Nature-Made, Nature's Bounty, Now, Florastor, VSL # 3, Metagenics, Prothera (Klaire Labs).
Natural Food Sources: Yogurt with live cultures (DanActive/Actimel by Dannon, Activia, Yakult), kefir live fermented foods (Sauerkraut, Kimchi, miso, tempeh).