Probiotics is the generic name for various strains of ‘life promoting’ living bacteria which are beneficial to the human digestive tract. We need probiotics in sufficient quantity to maintain our gut health, which is integral to having strong immune function – 70% of our immunity is in the gut.
We hear about them everywhere – how they clear up everything from a bloated gut to a depressed mind. How they boost the immune system and improve skin health. How they delay allergies in children and prevent urinary tract infections in women. The list is truly impressive. But what are probiotics? And do they deserve all the attention and accolades?
By way of the US National Institutes of Health: “Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called ‘friendly bacteria’ or ‘good bacteria.’ ”
HOW TO GET THEM
Probiotics come in many forms, and they don’t need to be delivered through yoghurts like Activia – particularly important for the dairy-intolerant. Probiotics can be found as fresh, refrigerated supplements at some health food stores, as well as dried and preserved.
‘Live cultures’ or ‘active cultures’ refer to the microorganisms found in foods such as yoghurt, which may be beneficial for human health. The term ‘live cultures’ is sometimes used instead of the word ‘probiotics’, and it seems that there is currently some movement in favour of the term ‘live cultures’, perhaps due to recent European legislation (the Nutrition & Health Claims regulation) which suggests that the word ‘probiotics’ could be seen as a health claim. Examples of live cultures include microorganisms such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Yoghurt is probably the most natural food to get probiotics into your body. It is amazing when I typed ‘probiotics’, you get a whole range of supplements popped up on your screen.
In layman’s term, would you rather eat yoghurt to get healthy or pop in pills after pills of probiotics?