What is a probiotic?

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There are trillions of living bacteria that call your digestive tract home. In fact, for every cell in your body, there are around 10 resident microbes.1 Many of these are ‘beneficial’ types and provide numerous important functions for the body. Beneficial bacteria of the gut play important roles in your body including:

  • Help protect against harmful organisms
  • Keep less favorable microorganisms in check
  • Extract nutrients and energy from food
  • Contribute to normal immune function
  • Synthesize some vitamins including vitamin K

Probiotics are live strains of beneficial bacteria similar to those found in the gut. They’re available as dietary supplements in some foods. Probiotics can help improve the microbial balance of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore support general health and well-being. They’re especially useful in restoring healthy bacteria after a course of antibiotics or other digestive problem, which can disrupt this delicate microbial balance.

Probiotics may also be useful if you’re suffering from digestive discomfort as they can help relieve bloating, flatulence and gas. Additionally, probiotics may be beneficial for maintaining urogenital health. Similar to the intestinal tract, the vagina contains a finely balanced microbial ecosystem but the system can be thrown out of balance by factors such as antibiotic use.

Where to find probiotics

Probiotics can be found in dietary supplements, which characteristically contain billions of live bacteria. They are also naturally present in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and tempeh.2 To help maintain and/or re-colonize the good bacteria in your digestive tract, consume a wide variety of fermented foods and consider taking a high strength probiotic supplement, especially after a course of antibiotics.

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Published February 24, 2015
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