You may have heard of probiotics: they’re in your yogurt, in gummy form* and even in skincare products*! But do you know exactly what they are and why we need them? Follow along to learn all about these helpful bacteria (yes, the good kind!) and the benefits of consuming them.
As your favorite health guru may have told you, probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts, and they live primarily in your gut. They boost the immune system and maintain digestive health, among many other things. You can find them in food, supplements and other products.
It’s still up in the air exactly how probiotics work, but researchers do know that they can help with different aspects of health. For example, it’s good to eat some extra yogurt after losing other good bacteria from taking antibiotics (1).
There are many different strains of bacteria that act as probiotics, but they mostly come from two main groups: lactobacillus—found in yogurt and other fermented foods and can help people who can’t digest lactose—and bifidobacterium (say that ten times fast)—found in some dairy and can help ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms (2).
In addition to the probiotics we consume, we also have good bacteria living on our skin! More than one trillion bacteria live in and on our skin, duplicating, crawling around and metabolizing. They help with everything from fighting infections to regulating pH levels (hello, alkaline water). These good guys are connected to the good bacteria in our intestines, so ensuring peak gut health is a current skincare addict’s obsession.
Probiotics secrete a protective substance that can help prevent pathogens (the bad guys) from taking hold and creating disease. No matter which way we ingest them—through yogurt, kombucha or supplement form—they join the bacteria in our gut, increasing the diversity of the microflora. The more diversity you have in your gut, the better, as they band together to protect the lining of the intestines.
Some naturally-occurring probiotics can be found in a variety of foods, including:
Try one of My Food and Family’s recipes to get the probiotics you’re looking for, like Sauerkraut and Bacon Salad or COOL WHIP Fruit Dip.
Don’t be too quick to start taking probiotics for general wellness, though. Although researchers are still unsure of how exactly probiotics help in these cases, they may be worth a try under the supervision of a doctor.
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