Probiotics are live, “friendly” microbes that promote and increase the population of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and prevent the overgrowth of pathogenic and disease-causing bacteria, creating a healthy intestinal flora, boosting your immune system and contributing to your overall health. Over 30 different beneficial pharmacological actions of probiotics have been identified. Probiotics are found in certain foods and in supplements.
Fast Fact: Probiotics boost not only your immune function, but also your neurological function and mood.
What They Do: By supporting a healthy community of microbes in your GI tract, called the microbiome, probiotics optimize your body’s ability to extract and use nutrients from food and properly regulate digestion, metabolism and elimination; boost your immune system; and help ensure you have a high-integrity intestinal wall. Your gut is also your second brain, housing 90% of your serotonin, nearly half your dopamine, and a large amount of melatonin.
Probiotics’ role in reducing and suppressing inflammation in your gut and throughout your body make them a powerful tool in conditions involving chronic inflammation including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, obesity, and depression. They may even play a role in cancer prevention. Probiotics are used to treat and prevent recurrences of vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections and are a beneficial post-antibiotic therapy.
Where to Get Them: Live-culture organic yogurt, fermented grass-fed organic milk or buttermilk, kefir, certain raw milk cheeses (especially Gouda), natto (fermented soy), miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha (fermented tea) and traditional (not heat-treated) pickled fermentations of turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots all contain probiotics. Boosting your fiber intake with vegetables, nuts and seeds will also support a healthy microbiome. Whether you get probiotics in your diet or not, a daily probiotic supplement can be very beneficial.
Supplement Suggestions: Look for a high-quality probiotic that contains at least 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units) with a variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Ideally, take daily. When taking an antibiotic, take your probiotic several hours before or after each dose. Many probiotics need to be refrigerated, so check the label.
Need to Know: 70-80% of your immune cells are located in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.