Two recent studies have delivered more evidence of the critical role probiotics play in the body’s immune and digestive systems. T he first found that probiotics may change the mucosa of the small intestine , boosting the immune system. Considering that as much as 80% of the human immune system is contained in the small intestine, this study is further proof that beneficial bacteria are an important component of that immune defense.
According to another study, probiotics may help those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal condition that causes abdominal pain, bloating, mucous in stools, irregular bowel habits, and alternating constipation and diarrhea. According to this study, beneficial bacteria may ease IBS symptoms by balancing the intestinal tract.
Best food sources of probiotics are cultured dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, acidophilus milk and cottage cheese and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kimchi (a Korean dish of fermented cabbage). Food manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and adding probiotics to everything from breakfast cereal to granola bars, but I don’t recommend consuming foods un-naturally fortified with beneficial bacteria. Better to stick with cultured or fermented foods containing probiotics in their naturally occurring form. Dietary supplements are another viable option if higher concentrations of bacteria are desired.