Probiotics are the helpful bacteria in our body that balance the level of “bad” bacteria, ensuring our digestive and immune systems remain healthy and active. Scientists, nutritionists and researcher recommend we maintain an 85:15 ratio of probiotics to bad bacteria for optimal health.
Probiotics have been specifically associated with improved digestion, including treatment for excess gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and cramping. Since 90% of immune system function starts in the digestive system, probiotics have also proven effective in supporting healthy immune system function, reducing the incidence of secondary bacterial infections throughout the body.
With over 100 trillion bacteria in the digestive tract, weighing a combined 3 to 5 pounds, thats roughly 2.5 to 4.5 pounds of health bacteria in your body! Ensuring the proper amount of health ensuring probiotics can be achieved by supplementing your diet with plenty of probiotic sources.
While most foods we eat contain a small amount of bacteria, they are typically not considered helpful probiotics; most of these bacteria are destroyed in the stomach, upon consumption. The most abundant, helpful probiotic is a bacterial strain called Lactobacillus acidophilus. This strain of probiotic is most closely associated with the greatest number of digestive and immune system benefits.
To maintain maximum health benefit from probiotics, nutritionists recommend you consume at least 10 billion colony forming units (cfu) of bacteria each day. Most servings of foods containing probiotics include between 10 billion and 25 billion cfu per serving. Probiotic supplements typically contain good bacteria, like L. acidophilus, in amounts designed to withstand initial digestion and then disperse into the intestinal tract; it is common for probiotic supplements to contain between 10 and 250 billion cfu per serving.
While several products contain probiotics, a few stand out for the amount and quality of the bacteria they contain, including:
In addition to being among the most popular probiotics foods, yogurt is also one of the best. Most yogurts contain at least 10 billion cfu of a variety of different healthy bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. These two bacteria are instrumental in relieving digestive issues, including bloat, gas and constipation.
Fermented vegetables, like kimchi and sauerkraut, contain billions of bacteria per serving. Sauerkraut is one of the sources containing at least three major strands of probiotics, including lactobacillus, leuconostoc, pediococcus; all helpful in supporting digestive health. Any fermented vegetable should be unpasteurized; pasteurization destroys all bacteria, including probiotics.
Miso is a fermented soybean paste popular in asian communities. Available in the asian section of most grocery stores, miso is often used to flavor soups, stews, and broths. Recent research reports that miso products contain over 150 different strains of bacteria, making it a well-rounded source of a variety of different probiotics.
Perhaps the most convenient way to consume a variety of probiotics, in the recommended amounts, is through a quality probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements contain a variety of strands of helpful bacterias, often freeze-dried and stored in capsule form. While some probiotic supplements contain up to 250 billion cfu per serving; look for sources that at least contain the recommended 10 billion cfu per serving.
Other Interesting Sources of Probiotics
As probiotics soar in popularity, we are finding more and more sources of healthy bacteria. In addition to yogurt and fermented vegetables, sourdough bread, gouda cheese, sour cream, and kefir are popular probiotic choices.