Chances are, you know what probiotics are and may even be using them. These microscopic bugs are naturally found in our bodies, by the trillions. They're dubbed "good" or "helpful" because they're believed to promote healthy digestion, which in turn supports a healthy immune system (did you know 70% of our immune system resides in our gut?). Although all healthy individuals house a balance of both good and bad bacteria, probiotics are also naturally found in high amounts in foods such as yogurt and kefir made with live cultures, fermented products such as kombucha and tempeh, and some vegetables including artichokes and leeks. Because some of the probiotics from these foods are destroyed during normal digestion, they're also available as high-dose supplements (some are still destroyed but enough survive to be beneficial).
Supplements can be useful to replenish low levels of healthy bacteria that may occur in certain conditions, such as undergoing prolonged stress or an illness, using antibiotic medications, or eating a highly refined low-nutrient diet. These situations can produce symptoms of bowel troubles, gas and bloating. Doctors may suggest probiotic supplements for digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhea.
There are many types of probiotics, each with slightly different benefits. Two of the most common and well-researched strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. I was happy to see that P&G included a probiotic called MetaBiotic in their new line of Meta wellness products. It contains Bio-Active 12 (Bifidobacteriumanimalis), a patented strain of bacteria that helps to promote a healthy immune system* and maintain digestive balance* when used daily.
Two concerns about probiotic supplements are that they are sensitive to heat and moisture, which can destroy them. Because of this, some supplements require refrigeration. If they are freeze-dried and stored in special packaging to keep out moisture, this lengthens their shelf life. MetaBiotic has been freeze-dried so it does not require refrigeration and is encased in a blister package, so it remains effective for two years (until their "best by" date). Each MetaBiotic capsule contains five billion live bacteria when manufactured.
So far health experts agree that probiotics are safe to use if you are healthy, and there is not a risk of toxicity. (If you have a weakened immune system, check with your doctor first before using them.) If you suffer from any digestive problems, supplements with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria may be worth a try. As always, let your doctor know of any supplements you are taking.
For more ways to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet and information on probiotic supplements check out A Healthful Dose of Bacteria — Yogurt Is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options published in Today's Dietitian magazine.
Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.