Probiotics, not to be confused with prebiotics, have been trending over the last few years as a magic cure-all to most afflictions. While this might be an exaggeration, probiotics have been shown to help maintain a healthy range of microbes in the gut, which can lead to a benefit to your overall health. The problem is, there are so many different kinds of probiotics that it can quickly become overwhelming. Whether you’re looking to maintain a healthy gut or supporta specific condition, there are a multitude of strains and dosage options. Since the study of probiotics is still in its early days, always consult your healthcare professional  to find out how probiotics can help you. Read on to find out everything you need to know about probiotics in food and supplements, and their known benefits.

1.  Benefits

Your gut contains hundreds of types of bacteria, which might surprise you. We tend to think of bacteria as being dirty or contaminating, but most of the bacteria in your stomach is completely harmless, or even better, can provide you with numerous health benefits. The area of probiotics is a constantly evolving field as we find out more and more about it, but research has shown that probiotics can improve immune function, provide a barrier against hostile bacteria, as well as improve digestion. Since gut health is incredibly important to your overall health and wellness, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can be taken through food or supplements, and there are different strains of bacteria that can help specific conditions, like medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome or can replenish the “good” bacteria after antibiotics. 

2. Supplements

Probiotic supplements contain live organisms and come in various doses. Doses can be made up of one or multiple strains of microbes, depending on the brand and condition it is being marketed for. When choosing a probiotic supplement, keep in mind that there are so many types and species of bacteria, and the amount in the supplement can vary greatly between brands. Make sure you talk to your healthcare professional first to discuss your health concerns   and the supplements you should be taking. If you think you’re not getting enough probiotics from your diet and want supplements to aid in your overall health, the two most common and studied varieties are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Supplements come in a variety of forms, like pills, powders, and liquids, so choose the form that best suits your lifestyle.

3. Food

Probiotics can be ingested almost entirely through food alone, but the sources are relatively limited, which doesn’t bode well for picky eaters. Yogurt with live cultures is the most popular food source for probiotics, but if you’re not a fan, other probiotic foods include the trendy kombucha (a fermented tea), miso soup, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi, kefir (somewhat of a drinkable yogurt that can be mixed into cereal or consumed on its own), and fermented cheeses like Gouda, cheddar and Swiss (any excuse to eat more cheese will do, right?). As you can see, it’s mostly fermented foods, which contain live cultures of bacteria or yeast. When it comes to how much exactly you should consume for optimum health, the research becomes a little less clear. For most people seeking overall good health, a few servings a week of various probiotic foods should do the trick, but as with anything good or bad, consume it in moderation.