There is (finally)so much hype over probiotics, as of late and for many people this still seems like a strange concept. The unfortunate thing, to me, is that it is being promoted and sold like a fad and that is a disservice to a product that truly can help.
There are some things that I practice that aren’t mainstream and sometimes aren’t backed by science (many of them are, but that science just isn’t making the news), but when something I practice is backed by science and is mainstream .. then you know it’s worth paying attention.
What is a “Probiotic”?
Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host” by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Essentially, most living microorganisms are a type of single-celled bacteria that find their way into your gut and make themselves at home. The key to the bacteria–and the reason why we want them–is that they provide health benefits, rather than harm us.
Probiotics are touted as having many health benefits but very few commercials and advertisements actually discuss these reported Benefits. Here, I’ve used the list from US Probiotics to quickly articulate the health benefits associated with probiotics (with added links to supporting research):
Research has suggested that probiotic bacteria can:
- Improve digestive function
- Help with side effects of antibiotic therapy
- Help reduce the risk of certain acute common infectious diseases
- Improve tolerance to lactose
- Enhance immune function
Probiotics can also help with brain functioning as well as depression and anxiety. Probiotics are also more well known for helping with digestive issues, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (and given the link between anxiety and IBS, this makes sense).
Overall, the beneficial bacteria touches on many areas of health and the research is growing, exponentially. In the world of research, these studies are fairly recent and with the focus from the media the funding and incentive to continue
With all of the advertisements that we are bombarded with (and the latest celebrity endorsements) it’s sometimes hard to believe that probiotics exist in nature … but as is true with most truly healthful industries, of course it exists in nature! Probiotics are bacteria and bacteria lives and thrives in natural environment. Many easy sources are with unnatural food products, but many others come in natural forms.
- Yogurt (plain, unprocessed .. even raw is best)
- Aged cheeses
- Some soy beverages
- Garden of Life has an excellent variety that caters to the raw foods lifestyle.
- Nature’s Plus offers a chewable tablet specifically for children, which is an incredible and natural aid for diarrhea.
- American Health offers a chewable tablet for adults that makes it fun and easy to take your probiotics on the go.