Probiotics are the new superfood – or rather, an old superfood of which we are only now realizing the benefit. A probiotic is a food or supplement that contains live cultures – or colonies of bacteria that are not harmful to the body. These bacteria are actually good for the gut.
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Our digestive system cannot function without the billions of bacteria inside. Probiotics work by introducing new strains and cultures of bacteria into the gut, thus creating a more diverse ecosystem that is less prone to damage or hunger. Essentially, by creating a diverse ecology, our digestive system works better.
Supplements are common nowadays, but unless you’ve been instructed by a doctor, it’s best to stick with probiotic foods in the meantime. This is especially true because of how easy they are to find.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. This includes sauerkraut, kimchee, and kombucha. Even more common – as well as the most famous – is yogurt, as long as it’s labelled that it has live cultures. Dairy products are usually quite rich in live cultures, but the best type of yogurt is natural, full-body Greek yogurt.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotic supplements are a common remedy for people undergoing antibiotic treatments. This is essential because antibiotics don’t discriminate between the harmful bacteria you’re treating, and the good bacteria in your gut. Reintroducing live cultures can replenish your intestinal flora and keep you healthy.
The benefits from probiotics on healthy adults are somewhat limited so far – due to a lack of research – but there is good reason to believe they may work as preventative care for certain digestive issues. The more strains in your gut, the less likely you seem to be to develop digestive issues, and they help support your immune system. Ninety percent of the bacteria strains in your digestive system are “system-supporting,” and it’s these bacteria we need to protect.
The oldest treatment use for probiotics is still one of the most common: digestive system disorders. In particular, introducing healthy and diverse cultures of bacteria can treat diarrhea and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Many of these disorders are the result of negative strains of bacteria – or other organisms – in your body, and probiotics are a natural way to out-compete these strains, thus solving the problem. There are even some studies suggesting probiotics can protect against insulin resistance – the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.
The research is not complete on probiotics, but they are an easy-to-include dietary supplement – whether from a pharmacy, or a cup of yogurt – and there are already great signs for their benefits so far.