Probiotics literally means “for life.” They're the bacteria that live in your intestinal tract – all 3 to 5 pounds of them - and help you to digest food, synthesize important vitamins, support your immune system, and ensure proper elimination of excess estrogen (e.g., from the environment). They also help keep in check other microorganisms like Candida (yeast), parasites, and other bacteria that cause problems when they grow out of control.
Even though we have billions of these microscopic little organisms inside of us, many of us still don’t have adequate numbers, or not in the proper proportions to one another. Why?
Imbalanced intestinal flora occurs primarily because of poor nutritional choices (e.g., yeast can flourish in an environment that’s overly abundant in sugar), antibiotics (literally, “against life”; they destroy both bad and good bacteria), other medications, hormones including birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, and chemicals in our food and environment.
To ensure that your gut flora remains strong and healthy, a daily probiotic supplement is good insurance. Look for one that features several different types of bacteria in it, as each type populates a specific region of the intestinal tract and performs a unique function.
You can also help keep the flora in your gut healthy by including fermented foods in your diet, such as yogurt and kefir. Kefir is typically made with more probiotics than yogurt and is fermented longer. It tastes slightly acidic and has a pleasant, fizzy effervescence to it.
Other excellent fermented food choices include kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi (pickled vegetables), tempeh, and miso. Both of the latter are made with fermented soybeans - the preferred way to get your soy, rather than as tofu.
By keeping the bacteria in your digestive tract healthy and happy, you’ll enjoy both better digestion and a stronger immune system!