Between yogurt, kombucha and supplements, it can sometimes seem like probiotic products are on every aisle of your grocery store. But just exactly how beneficial are probiotics? And does your family really need to eat more probiotic-containing food?
First, let’s back up a bit and answer a very important question: What are probiotics? Whether they’re in your yogurt, tea or even cereal, probiotics refer to live microorganisms similar to the “good” bacteria already existing naturally in your digestive system.
If it feels counterintuitive to purposefully digest bacteria, you aren’t alone. However, the benefits of incorporating probiotics into your diet (and your children’s) offer a compelling argument. Here are a few benefits from probiotics to consider.
1. Maintain good health
Restoring the balance of bacteria in your body can help boost your immune system and help your digestive system function better. By replacing the “bad” gut bacteria that can cause infection or inflammation with the good bacteria found in probiotics, you can help your body fend off illnesses and stay healthy.
2. Shorten illness symptoms
Anytime you or your child must take a round of antibiotics to treat an infection or illness, it can throw off the ratio of good bacteria in your body. Probiotics can help restore the proper ratios and actually lead you to be symptom-free sooner from an infection or inflammation.
3. Improve digestive issues
If you or your child suffers from constipation, acid reflux, frequent bouts of diarrhea or excessive flatulence, ingesting probiotics could help relieve some of the symptoms. However, it’s important to note that probiotics should never be used as a treatment to any of the above conditions—just merely as an option for potentially relieving symptoms.
Although the above benefits sound great in theory, there is still a great deal of research needed for confirmation. For instance, the proper dose has not been established and the FDA currently regulates probiotics as food products and not medications.
Because of these reasons, it’s always best to consult with your child’s pediatrician before opting for a probiotic supplement. Your doctor can also point you toward foods containing probiotics, but here’s a short list to get you started:
While you don’t need to rush out to the store and add each of the above items to your grocery list, it’s certainly worth considering adding one or two to your family’s daily diet. Your digestive system—and your overall health—will thank you.