Probiotics: What They Are and Why They Matter

What exactly are probiotics, and why does everyone think you should eat them?

It seems like every yogurt and a good chunk of other foods contain probiotics these days. It’s a huge selling point: probiitics this and probiotic that. But the fact remains that most of us consume these foods without really understanding what probiotics are. We just take the food industry’s word that they’re good for us.

What are probiotics?

Your body is home to billions of living organisms, including many bacteria. That sounds kind of gross but it’s actually a good thing. Some bacteria are, obviously, harmful and make you sick, but others are necessary parts of your body’s life.

Probiotics are microscopic living organisms with a host of health benefits. The World Health Organization recognizes them as extremely beneficial to the human body.

Probiotic side effects

The most common food containing a probiotic component? Why, probiotic yogurt, of course. That’s because probiotics appear most commonly in milk and soy products, making cheese, yogurt, and milk the easiest places to harvest probiotic benefits.

Unless you’re already critically ill, there are virtually no probiotic side effects — no negative side effects, that is. From a health point of view, doctors believe that probiotics can contribute to a number of beneficial effects, such as:

— Combating lactose intolerance

— Preventing cancer

— Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels

— Improving the immune system and fighting infections (making probiotic yogurt the perfect treat when you’re feeling sick)

— Improving mineral absorption from other foods

— Reducing stress-related illness

— Improving urogenital health and preventing colon disease

As you see, that’s a pretty impressive list of probiotic side effects. In addition, probiotics help reduce negative side effects from other medications and aid in digestion. Studies even show that probiotic yogurt can aid in weight loss.

Basically, unless you’re on a very special diet (in which case you should consult your doctor before undertaking any changes to diet or health regime), there’s no downside to probiotics. If you don’t like milk products, consider taking a probiotic supplement instead. These little guys are health machines, so go out of your way to make probiotics part of your daily life.