Finding balance amid career, relationships, hobbies, personal life, and health is often difficult. Eating right can be tough when you're always on the go, and modern diets often don't include enough of the fiber and beneficial nutrients our bodies need to function their best. A great probiotic can help your health and digestive system get back on track.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics have been the focus of a lot of recent research, showing a range of benefits from supporting gut health to immune health.
Probiotics are the beneficial live yeasts and bacteria that aid in digestion and maintaining internal balance. They are often recommended by health professionals for digestive health issues, as well as to help replenish healthy bacteria when taking antibiotics. Antibiotics are prescribed to kill off harmful bacteria, but they unfortunately also kill off beneficial bacteria, as well. Taking a probiotic supplement can help replace the good gut bacteria.
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. If your diet isn’t rich in these foods, or you need extra GI support, taking a probiotic supplement can be helpful.
Benefits of Probiotics
Here are some of the most powerful benefits of taking probiotics:
Increasing evidence shows the tremendous effects gut health has on the rest of our bodies. Probiotics can boost our body's immune system response and may also help prevent minor illnesses and allergies.
Better urinary and vaginal health
Many women know the pain and annoyance of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Probiotics help prevent yeast overgrowth and assist in maintaining a healthy pH balance and urinary tract.
One of the most well known benefits of probiotics is their role in supporting digestive health and other GI issues. Many women experience occasional gas, bloating, and stomach cramps, and taking a probiotic regularly may help reduce such discomfort.
While more research still needs to be done, there seems to be a strong connection between gut health and mental health. Taking a probiotic may help women deal with stress, anxiety and depression and improve well-being.
Choosing a High-Quality Women's Probiotic
There are a lot of probiotic options available online, or you can walk into a pharmacy or health food store and find a wide selection. It's important to remember that not all of these products are created equally, however. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement:
Shelf-stable vs. refrigerated
You'll notice there are both shelf-stable and refrigerated probiotic products available. Both options are manufactured to ensure the stability of their beneficial bacteria. Shelf-stable probiotics can offer extra convenience. Whichever one you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper storage.
Different strains of good bacteria (also known as live cultures) are present in the human gut. Seven species most often appear in probiotics, including Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Saccharomyces, Enterococcus, and Escherichia. Look for probiotics that contain multiple strains of active cultures for the best results.
The potency of probiotics is measured in colony forming units (CFUs), which indicate how many organisms are in each serving. The higher the CFUs, the more potent the probiotic. Higher CFU products are more powerful, but not always necessary. A lower amount may be best for daily maintenance, whereas a higher potency product can be good while taking antibiotics or for addressing a specific health concern.
An ideal probiotic supplement will contain only the probiotic bacteria without additional ingredients like preservatives or artificial colors or flavors, and will be gluten- and dairy-free. Some shelf-stable probiotics may have ingredients in them to help protect them from moisture, light, heat and oxygen.
How and When to Take Probiotics
It's important to take probiotics regularly to make them a part of your routine. Here are some tips to make the process easier:
• Each probiotic will have instructions on the best way to take it. Be sure to read the label.
• Taking your probiotic after eating prebiotic foods – like garlic, onions, greens, whole grains, apples, and seeds like flax and chia – can help, too, because these foods contain fiber that keeps gut bacteria happy and healthy.
• If you are taking an antibiotic, it can be especially helpful to support your GI health with a probiotic. It is important to take the probiotic away from the antibiotic (or the antibiotic will kill off the good bacteria in the probiotic).
Taking your daily probiotic supplement at any time of the day is better than not taking a probiotic at all, however. Find a way to work probiotics into your daily routine that is easy and most convenient for you.