Americans are just beginning to understand what Asian and European cultures have known for centuries. Consuming foods and beverages containing probiotics can prevent and treat conditions from stomach upset to urinary tract infections.
A normal, healthy gut contains 500 species of 100 trillion microorganisms. Illnesses, poor diet or antibiotic use can easily disrupt the delicately balanced gut flora, and it can take weeks or even months to re-establish that balance. Adding probiotics to your diet can help rebuild the beneficial bacteria in your colon and boost your gastrointestinal tract in many ways.
Probiotics help improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
Gastric acids begin the digestive process in the stomach, but friendly bacteria take over when food arrives in the colon. A healthy balance of bacteria ensures thorough digestion and efficient nutrient absorption.
Probiotics help regulate the elimination of waste.
One of the most common digestive complaints is bowel trouble. Everyone struggles with constipation or diarrhea at times, and probiotics can help with both types of bowel distress. Studies on infants showed that probiotics can help shorten the course of diarrhea. Conversely, probiotics can soften hard stools and enhance GI motility, making stools easier to pass.
Probiotics help ease symptoms of digestive disorders.
The GI tract is the center of the body’s immunity. Increasing beneficial bacteria can help treat conditions including indigestion, lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers are investigating whether probiotics can provide protection against infections and illnesses outside of the digestive tract such as tooth decay, skin infections, allergies and yeast infections.
If you have never tried probiotics, you may want to consider introducing them slowly into your diet. Here is a list of some of the most common sources of probiotics:
- Dark chocolate
- Apple cider vinegar
When shopping for a quality probiotic, look for a food or beverage that contains a minimum of 10 billion live bacteria. Pay attention to the expiration date as well. For maximum benefit, consume the product as soon as possible. The number of live bacteria will decrease as the expiration approaches. Enjoy trying something new for the sake of your digestion and — for life!