Probiotics 101: A Simple Beginner’s Guide

Having the right gut bacteria has been linked to numerous health benefits, including the following:

  • Weight Loss
  • Healthier Skin
  • Reduced Risk of Some Diseases
  • Improved Digestion 
  • Enhanced Immune Function

Probiotics, which are a certain type of friendly living microorganism, provide benefits when eaten. Certain types of yeasts can also function as probiotics. You can get probiotics from supplements as well as foods prepared from bacterial fermentation. 

Probiotic foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh 
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Pickles

Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, which are carbs–often dietary fibers–that help feed the friendly bacteria already in our guts. Foods high in prebiotic fiber include:

  • Legumes, beans, and peas
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Garlic

The most common probiotic bacteria are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, however, there are several other kinds as well. Each genus comprises different species, and each species has many strains. On labels, you will see the probiotics identified by their specific strain (which includes the genus), the species, subspecies if there is one, and a letter-number strain code. 

Day-to-day diet and exercise are just as important, as many lifestyle factors affect your gut bacteria. Taking a probiotic supplement may offer a wide range of health benefits with few side effects (the most common being digestive symptoms that should subside within a few days).

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