There are several things to know about probiotics. For starters the name simply means “for life.” Pro means for and the bio in biotic means life. Think about it in terms of antibiotics. We know anti is against and biotic refers to the infection or bacteria living inside of you. The goal of antibiotics to kill the bad bacteria. Probiotics work by putting live microorganisms in your gastro-intestinal tract to improve health and immunity. Now that you have a brief understanding keep reading for more things to know about probiotics.
1. Immune System
One of the first things to know about probiotics is that your immune system is in your gut. I guess I’ve never really thought about where my immune system might be located, but it helps to know that so we can fuel our immune system and our stomachs with healthy foods and probiotics.
2. Where to Get Probiotics?
Some foods naturally contain probiotics. You can find the strongest strains in naturally fermented food like plain yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Other foods like juices and chocolates come enhanced with probiotics. The foods that contain them naturally are better. Do you have any probiotic foods you like to eat? My favorite would be kimchee or sauerkraut. Yum!
3. How Much do I Need?
Good question. If you want to take probiotics to help your digestive system and increase your immune system you need billions of colony forming units of these little guys in your system. Don’t let the number scare you. If you are eating enriched foods look for at least 10 billion CFUs per serving. The more the better, I promise.
4. Sugar Downfall
Sometimes you will see probiotics come with foods that are packed with sugar. This is actually counter-productive. Sugar depletes the effectiveness of probiotics and weakens the immune system. We don't want to undo the work we are trying to complete so avoid sugary probiotics. This includes yogurt mixed with fruit. Plain yogurt is best in this case.
5. They’re Alive!
In case you missed that earlier, probiotics are living microorganisms that create colonies in your gut to fight off bad bacteria. Keep this in mind when looking for foods that contain them. Most should be refrigerated, but if not look for a shelf stable label on the packaging. If the label doesn't say that it is shelf stable you may be buying an ineffective product. What probiotic products do you buy? Are they kept in the fridge?
Some people take their probiotics as a supplement instead of trying to eat different foods that contain them. This is fine, but be sure to apply the same rules as with foods. Avoid too much sugar, make sure the dosing is adequate, and check to see if they should be kept in the fridge. What's your favorite supplement?
You might get sick or have an infection that causes you to need antibiotics. Not to worry, just double or triple your dose of probiotics after you are finished with your prescription. No need to take them while on the antibiotics. You will just kill them off as soon as they hit your system. Taking them after your meds are complete will build your immune system back up.