Focus On: Probiotics

WHAT IT IS:

Probiotics are live microorganisms that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in the intestines. The probiotic bacteria found in the digestive tract reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system.

BENEFITS

Probiotics are primarily beneficial to the intestinal tract and will help relieve bloating, gas, and constipa­tion. These bacteria can also reduce abdominal pain, bowel irritation, and heart­burn, while helping to boost your immune system.

RECOMMENDED DOSAGES

Probiotic supplements can be taken in three different forms: capsule, powder, or tablets. The recommended dosage varies by product, but typically a probiotic should contain several billion microorganisms to increase the likelihood of adequate gut colonization. For one of the most common types of probiotics, lactobacilli, clinical studies suggest doses ranging from one billion to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day.

SOURCES

You can find probiotic bacteria in cultured foods and beverages. Some of the most common sources are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and fermented milk (e.g. cultured buttermilk). Probiotics can also be taken via nutritional supplement.

WARNINGS

If you begin to take a probiotic supplement while your digestive tract is healthy and functioning properly, it is possible to overdose. Side effects include gas, bloating, and even abdominal tenderness and/or pain. If this happens, you can stop taking the probiotics, then reintroduce them into your system in smaller doses. Probiotics can also interact with certain medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any supplement intake. People who have weakened immune systems or artificial heart valves have an increased risk of bacterial infections when taking probiotics.

PROBIOTICS PICKS

Ultimate Flora RTS Daily Probiotic 15 Billion, $20, 30 capsules, renewlife.com // Kyo-Dophilus, $29, 90 capsules, kyolic.com // Essential Formulas’ Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, $60, 60 capsules, essentialformulas.com // Garden of Life Primal Defense, $50, 90 capsules, gardenoflife.com // Twinlab Oral Health Dots, $20, 30 tablets, twinlab.com // Twinlab Time Release Probiotic, $30, 30 tablets, twinlab.com