You may have heard of the word probiotics thrown around during a casual conversation with someone who keeps a strictly healthy diet. Probiotics have gained their claim to fame in recent years as research has shown clinically proven benefits of these nutrients. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about probiotics!

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are edible formulations that contain a mix of good bacteria and yeast, alive and thriving. As bizarre as this may sound, these very live microorganisms can help reap multiple health benefits for the body, including improved digestion and better gut health.

Some of the most common bacterial species typically used in probiotics are Saccharomyces boulardii, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus.

In general, a microorganism can be labelled as a probiotic if it can be isolated from the human body, survive in the gut once consumed, have a clinically proven health benefit, and is safe.

Benefits of probiotics

One of the key benefits of probiotics is aiding in food digestion. Microbes in probiotic formulations work by breaking down large food molecules that may be difficult to digest into smaller, more soluble molecules that the intestine can readily assimilate.

Besides their digestive health properties, probiotics can also help clear harmful bacteria living in the gut, improve your immunity and build certain vitamins needed for the body, such as vitamin K.

What kind of foods contain probiotics?

Probiotics aren’t just available in supplements form; they are actually present in a number of foods that we consume on a daily basis. So even if you’re not taking probiotic supplements every day, you can still get your share of probiotics from the food you eat in a regular, healthy diet.

Yoghurt, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, kimchi, miso soup, and fermented vegetables such as pickles are excellent probiotic sources.

If these food items are not present in your diet, adding a probiotic supplement may help instead. These supplements come in all kinds of forms, including powders, liquids, capsules or pills.

The downsides of probiotics

Probiotics are generally safe, but certain groups of people may need to be more cautious when consuming these formulations. For example, people who have a weakened immune system, such as those on chemotherapy for cancer treatment, people with a critical illness or those who have had a recent surgery done, should all keep their probiotics intake low. In these patients, probiotics may cause unwanted side effects such as diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain. Probiotics may also aggravate an infection in those with a weakened immune system.

Bottom Line

Probiotics are a great way to boost your natural health, particularly your digestive health. These formulations contain live microbes that are considered healthy for the body and aid in bettering gut health. Naturally occurring probiotics can be found in yoghurt, sourdough bread and other forms of fermented foods.