What are probiotics?
When you see a reference to ‘good’ gut flora or ‘good’ bugs in your gut, most of those remarks are referring to different types of ‘good’ bacteria – meaning they are good for your body’s health. Probiotics is the general term that includes most of those good bacteria.
As noted on the Mayo Clinic’s site: “Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Your lower digestive tract alone teems with a complex and diverse community of these bacteria. In fact, there are a greater number of bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body.”
Your intestines are also teeming with ‘bad’ bacteria (can cause harm and negative health related issues). Having too many of the “bad” and not enough of the “good” bacteria — often caused in part by an unhealthy diet — can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body’s health. As further noted on the Mayo Clinic’s website: “This imbalance can lead to weight gain, skin conditions, constipation or diarrhea, and various chronic health conditions.” The key is too have more of the ‘good’ guys than the ‘bad’.
Consuming foods rich in probiotics (some yogurts, some cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut and kimshi) and taking a probiotic supplement can help you increase your ‘good’ gut bugs and help keep the ‘bad’ ones at bay.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are many different types (strains) of probiotics, each with specific purposes. You need a good variety of different strains to help achieve a balanced and healthy gut flora. A variety of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species are the most common beneficial bacteria used in dietary supplements.