Well, friends, you may have noticed that my 31 Days series experienced an interruption. But, I’m back, and ready to keep going! {The past week, I had company– my parents were visiting from out of town (over 800 miles away). We stayed fairly busy and I opted to spend extra quality time with them… we had full days and I I pretty much conked out soon after the kids went to bed}. But, I’m back now, and I’ll just pick up right where I left off.

Today is Day 17 of the Healthier Living series, and the topic is “probiotics”.

Probiotics: What are they?

First, what are probiotics? According to a widely used definition by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, probiotics are “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” (Microorganisms are tiny living organisms — such as bacteria, viruses, and yeasts — that can be seen only under a microscope.)

In other words, probiotics are living bacteria that are beneficial to health when taken in appropriate quantities. More than 400 different bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract, and two of these are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum. These two bacteria act as balancing agents for non-friendly bacteria, such as E. coli and Candida.

Where do I find Probiotics and how much should I take?

Probiotics are available in food or in supplement form (capsules, powders). Foods that contain probiotics are fermented milk and other fermented drinks, miso, and yogurt.

The recommended daily intake for probiotics are between 1 billion and 10 billion units per day (source). Some common species in supplements are: . acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. gasseri, L. plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, B. lactis, B. longum, Enterococcus faecium, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

What are some benefits of taking Probiotics?

Antibiotics, stress, or illness can upset the balance between the friendly and unfriendly bacteria in the gut. Probiotics can help restore the balance.

Probiotics have also been very helpful in the treatment of infectious diarrhea, especially in infants in children, shortening the duration of diarrhea by up to 50% (source).

Probiotics are also useful in treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease. Approximately 58 million Americans are estimated to suffer from IBS. (source).

Other conditions that are treated with probiotics include: reduces childhood eczema; reduces lactose intolerance; enhances the immune system response; aids in digestion; reduces incidences of yeast infections and candidiasis; and increased absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B and calcium.

Probiotic therapy is also being studied in the treatment of allergies, diabetes and high cholesterol. Research is still early.

Are there any side effects to taking Probiotics?

Probiotics are usually considered safe except for those with compromised immune system. Symptoms are usually minor, and may include gas, bloating or abdominal discomfort. There is the possibility of an allergic reaction, but this could be from the other ingredients used. (I usually buy probiotics that are free of most common allergens: dairy, wheat, soy, egg, nut, etc.)  Reading labels is important!

As always, consult your health profession for information and advice; this blog is not meant to substitute for any medical advice whatsoever. Also, tell your health care professional if you are taking probiotics.

Probiotics have been part of my regular life for the past eight years. I also give them to my children on a regular basis.

Question for you: Do you take probiotics? Do you take supplements or take them through food?