Probiotics supplements have become so ubiquitous that it can be confusing to try to determine which ones you should take. You may even be asking yourself if there is any point to taking probiotics, especially if you are already taking a handful of nutritional supplements.
So What Are Probiotics Anyway?
Our digestive tracts serve as the home for many billions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi which are actually beneficial to us and essential for normal function. These living organisms, collectively known as the micro biome, are consumed either in foods or in a probiotic supplement, and are vital to not only gut health, but to our immunity and overall health.
Probiotics were discovered by Elie Metchnikoff, who is known as the father of probiotics. He noticed that inhabitants of rural sections of Bulgaria would live to ripe old ages despite living in extreme poverty. When he discovered that they consumed sour milk, he encountered the gut-friendly bacteria which are now known as probiotics.
Another interesting manner in which humans acquire beneficial bacteria is through the birth canal, where a newborn will be exposed to Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Escherichia coli, and Bifidobacterium. This is the main reason why infants who are born via C-section have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible to allergies.
What exactly do probiotics do? They are believed to protect us in two ways. The first is the role that they play in our digestion. We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad gut bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
Since our immune response protects us from germs, and also since beneficial bacteria in our digestive tracts are vital to optimal immunity, it makes sense to replenish our guts with probiotics. If our digestive tracts are deficient in probiotics, we are more susceptible to infections, autoimmune disorders, and allergic reactions.
In order for a microbe to be designated as a probiotic, it must meet the following criteria:
1. It must have a documented health benefit,
2. It must be alive when taken, and
3. It must be administered at levels to offer a health benefit.
You should take at least one billion colony forming units (CFU’s) each day.
If you would like to supplement your diet with foods which contain probiotic bacteria, you can incorporate the following foods into your regimen: