What is a Probiotic?
A probiotic is a live culture of "good bacteria" that are naturally found in the gut. Although many strains of good bacteria are already found in the gut, consuming foods or supplements containing probiotics can help to change or repopulate these intestinal bacteria and balance the gut flora. There is much research being done on the positive effects that a healthy gut flora can have on other body systems.
What are the Benefits of a Probiotic?
Under the probiotic genera, there are hundreds of species with even more strains that each function differently and produce different benefits. Currently, the most widely researched bacterial genera’s include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Species of Lactobacillus bacteria have been found to help prevent antibiotic associated diarrhea, boost immunity, and improve skin conditions. There is also ongoing research involving the treatment of psychological conditions with different bacterial strains.
Bifidobacterium is found widely in the gut and aids in the digestion of foods, producing short-chain fatty acids and reducing inflammation through the stimulation of immune cells. Bifidobacterium strains can also have positive benefits for certain skin issues, mental health issues, and gastrointestinal problems.
What Foods Contain Probiotics?
Dietary sources of these bacteria include certain brands of yogurt and milk, kefir, miso, tempeh, fermented vegetables, and kombucha. You can also purchase probiotics in supplement form.
How Much Do I Need to Take?
The recommended doses range from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU). You can usually get this amount from 1-2 capsules of a probiotic supplement. Food sources may vary based on batch and food processing practices. Some research studies done using yogurt showed benefits when subjects consumed 1-2 servings of yogurt per day.
Will a Probiotic Help Me Lose Weight?
The effects of probiotics on weight loss and fat disposition are being studied, but so far there are no successful links between probiotic intakes and weight loss.
Overall, the benefits of probiotics are promising. Adding probiotics into your daily routine either through dietary or supplemental means may have positive health effects. Be on the lookout for more research in the future as there is much to be discovered about the benefits of the numerous bacterial species that exist.
Learn about CHI Health's Nutrition Education Services as well as our Gastroenterology services.