Have you noticed all the kombucha for sale at grocery stores? Or maybe a kombucha bar moved in next to your favorite coffee shop.
And why is your coworker who always packs super-healthy lunches talking about kimchi all the time?
What kombucha and kimchi have in common are probiotics, a type of friendly bacteria that helps keep our digestive and immune systems working properly.
It’s also one of the latest buzzwords in health, fitness and food products. But what’s the science behind these little guys, and why is everyone talking about them? Are they more than a buzzword?
The short answer is yes. Here’s a probiotic primer to help you learn more about what’s good for your gut.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are actually tiny living microorganisms that help create a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. They support your digestive health and your body’s immune system.
Your body is made up of both “good” and “bad” bacteria and probiotics are the ultimate good guys who send the bad guys packing.
When things happen that make your body lose some of its good bacteria—like lack of sleep, eating too much junk food, stress or even pollution—probiotics can help replace what has been lost.
Their job is to help restore the body’s balance of good bacteria to keep it working like it should.
Gut bacteria: The good and the bad
Many people know having a healthy immune system is good for your overall well being, but did you know that 70 percent of your immune system is located in your gut? This is why your gut health has a huge impact on your overall well-being.
“The bacteria population in your gut is where immune and digestive function intersect. The gut does so much, including teaching your immune system how to behave,” said Kristin Morris, senior research scientist for the Nutrilite™ brand of vitamins and dietary supplements.
“There are things we can do to manage our gut to resist certain conditions, one of which includes taking a probiotic.”
People’s lifestyle choices around food, alcohol and sleep can often lead to an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria. Environmental pollutants can also play a role in gut bacteria being out of sync. For all these reasons and more, probiotics can help people maintain a more natural balance of the much-needed good bacteria.
“The good bacteria in your gut are your body’s first natural defense mechanism. They not only help enrich the microbial ecosystem of the gut, but also support your intestinal walls, which are a critical part of your immune system,” Morris said. “This function is something your body does every day, and probiotics can help support that natural defense barrier layer.”
Get a daily dose
Probiotics are not something you should take only when you have digestive concerns or on the days you remember to reach for them.
Good bacteria don’t live forever inside your gut. To really take care of yourself, it’s important to replenish your probiotics every day. This will continuously send fresh, good bacteria to your gut.
There are two ways to make sure you’re getting enough probiotics into your diet. You can eat probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented dishes. Or you can take a quality probiotic supplement. Adding a daily probiotic to a nutritious diet is the best way to make sure you’re getting enough of these good bacteria into your body.
In a world where fast food and everyday stress can negatively affect your gut health, daily use of probiotics can help promote the internal balance you need to stay healthy.