What are Probiotics and do we really need them?
We have all heard of probiotics, but what are they and why are they so important? Human beings are made up of roughly 100 trillion cells, but only about 10 trillion of those are human cells. The other 90 trillion cells are made up of viruses, microorganisms, and bacteria. Most of us have a negative association with the word bacteria, but the truth is without bacteria, our physical bodies would not be able to perform all the functions necessary for life.
Of course, not all bacteria is good either, but probiotics help to increase the good bacteria in the body and balance out the bad bacteria. Probiotics (or healthy bacteria) are beneficial organisms that work to fight off infection, aid in digestion, kill off dangerous organisms in the intestine, assist the immune response, and lower inflammation. There are times that through stress or diet or other genetic factors that our bacteria levels are thrown out of balance. This is when we need to supplement our levels of healthy bacteria by eating specific foods high in probiotics or by supplementing with capsule or liquid form probiotics. Foods naturally high in probiotics are kefir, yogurt, and some fermented vegetables.
Some signs that you may need to start taking probiotics is if you are frequently fighting off colds or if you have gas, bloating, irregular bowel movements, or a serious digestive disease. Keep in mind that there is no risk in taking probiotics, so if you think you may want to experiment with them to see if they help give you more energy or improve some other physical function, there is no harm in that.
If you are buying probiotics my suggestion is to buy a brand that has at least 5 billion strains. You will see that they are not all created equally. You can pay from $15 dollars up to $60 or more. If you have a specific issue with digestion or a disease like Crones, Colitis or IBS, it may help to spend a little more money on one with more strains, but for those of you already feeling healthy the additional cost may not be needed.