The Key to Good Health: Probiotics and Belly Bacteria

You’ve probably seen your fair share of yogurt commercials claiming that their products not only taste great, but are also bursting with probiotics. It’s not the most glamorous of topics, but let’s face it, your life would be a lot less comfortable without adequate amounts of this incredibly beneficial bacteria.

What Are Probiotics?

It turns out that your gut is already chock full of probiotic bacteria. Think of them as your intestinal tract’s own personal police force. They randomly roam around the area ensuring that everything is in order, e.g. keeping the growth of harmful bacteria from taking over the neighborhood. This helps maintain the natural balance of the intestines. Without probiotics we’d all be prey to rampant indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, and even a compromised immune system. “A significant proportion of our immune system, ranging from 70-80 percent, is concentrated in your gastrointestinal tracts,” says Dr. Nancy Steely, a licensed naturopathic physician and USANA Health Sciences Director of Research. “[And] probiotics [play] a huge role in that area.”

But if the body already comes with probiotics, why do some people consume probiotic-rich yogurt or take probiotic pills? Good question. People who don’t maintain a healthy diet or use antibiotics regularly may experience a probiotic imbalance, which makes it necessary to get what they need from an outside source. 

Where Can I Get Probiotics?

Yogurts, such as Activia, contain probiotics, but you can also get your probiotic fix by adding a few items to your grocery list. Foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, sourdough bread, sour pickles, and tempeh (an Indonesian treat made of fermented soybeans) can all help make up for any probiotic inefficiencies.

Some experts also promote taking supplements. Steely notes that: “A probiotic supplement…provides the beneficial bacteria in a form that makes it possible to pass through stomach acid and colonize the areas where it provides the greatest benefit.”

There are tons of probiotic supplements available on the market, which can be purchased at virtually any corner drugstore or supplement shop, such as The Vitamin Shoppe and Whole Foods. And if you do choose to go the supplement route, keep these tips from Shane Ellison author of “Over-The-Counter Natural Cures” in mind. The supplements should:

  • • Contain at least 10 million Lactobacilli or Bifidobacteria per dose 

  • • Only contain live strains and ideally incorporate some sort of nutrition (usually carbohydrates) for the living bacteria to feed on

  • • Be refrigerated and shipped with a cold pack or in the refrigerated section of the store