There are trillions of bacteria which live in our digestive tracts. More than 400 different species have been identified. Most of these are healthy bacteria while others have the potential to cause damage to our intestinal systems.1
Probiotics have increased in popularity over the last few years. They are specifically formulated to assure that the bacteria are able to survive the acid environment of the stomach, attach to the cells of, and colonize the small intestine and/or colon. While the specific effects of each probiotic species likely differs, in general, these organisms have been shown to confer health benefits through a variety of mechanisms.2
Although everyone is unique and responds to probiotics differently, there are specific qualities in a probiotic that can affect how well it will work. Knowing what to look for can make all the difference.
It is important to note that most probiotics differ both in their bacterial composition and quantity. There are more than 100 commercially available probiotic supplements. Many of these are single species preparations while others contain either multiple strains of a single species, multiple species, or both. Furthermore, the concentration of bacteria in each preparation varies.2
Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added live cultures, such as yogurt, soy yogurt, cheese or as dietary supplements.
2 Blumberg, D., and D. E. Beck. “Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis.” Gastroenterology Clinics of North America 31 (March 2002): 219-235.