What do sauerkraut, yogurt and kimchi have in common? They all contain microorganisms from the fermentation process that promote gut health known as probiotics.

Probiotics have the potential to offer a host of advantages beyond your tummy. From supporting vaginal health to improving eczema symptoms and boosting your immune system, these little powerhouses can be the helping hand you need to feel better. If pickled “somethings” aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of probiotic supplements you can take. With so many types and species of bacteria in probiotics, finding the right one for your body’s needs can prove to be a tricky process. These tips will help you out.


Know the brand

Probiotics are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to choose from well-known brands with good reputations. While experts say probiotics won’t cause issues for people in good health, check with your doctor about any potential risks before giving them a try. The most common side effects are usually very mild, like upset stomach, gas and bloating.


Know the strains

Scientists give bacteria three names: genus, species and strain. You’ll see something like “Bifidobacterium longum W11,” where bifidobacterium is the genus, longum is the species and W11 is the strain. Generally, there are three different genera of bacteria in probiotics. Let’s break them down:


Research shows the benefits for Bifidobacteria include reducing inflammatory bowel disease and several cancers, especially colon cancer.


Probiotics containing Lactobacillus help to repopulate the small intestine with friendly organisms that aid in supporting digestion and immune function.


Saccharomyces protect the gut lining from the effects of antibiotic-related leaky gut syndrome.

Probiotics go deeper than just the genus, however. Make sure all three names are the ones you’re looking for. Otherwise the anticipated effects may be very different.


Count the Colony Forming Units

Colony Forming Units, or CFUs, indicate exactly how much bacteria are in each dose. How much you need varies, and there’s no general rule to follow, so some experimentation may be necessary. A probiotic dose will range from 5 to 100 billion CFUs, and a good rule of thumb is to start lower and increase as tolerated.

If you feel like your body isn’t performing as well as it should, try adding a probiotic to the mix. You may be surprised at how great you feel when you find the one that works best for you!

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