Limit your use of laxatives and other potentially harmful medications. Instead, try taking a probiotic supplement to help combat constipation. These helpful bacteria can be found in various supplements that are available over the counter. To get the most benefit out of probiotics, it’s important to take them regularly and not just when you’re having trouble with your bowel movements.
Best Vitamins With Probiotics
Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your body. Bacteria is usually viewed in a negative light as something that makes you sick. However, you have two kinds of bacteria constantly in and on your body — good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that helps keep your body healthy and working well. This good bacteria helps you in many ways, including fighting off bad bacteria when you have too much of it, helping you feel better.
Probiotics are part of a larger picture concerning bacteria and your body — your microbiome. Think of a microbiome as a diverse community of organisms, such as a forest, that work together to keep your body healthy. This community is made up of things called microbes. You have trillions of microbes on and in your body. These microbes are a combination of:
- Fungi (including yeasts).
Everyone’s microbiome is unique. No two people have the same microbial cells — even twins are different.
For a microbe to be called a probiotic, it must have several characteristics. These include being able to:
- Be isolated from a human.
- Survive in your intestine after ingestion (being eaten).
- Have a proven benefit to you.
- Be safely consumed.
Where do beneficial probiotics (microbes) live in my body?
Though the most common place linked to beneficial microbes is your gut (mostly large intestines), you have several locations in and on your body that host good microbes. These locations are in contact with the “outside world” and include your:
- Urinary tract.
How do probiotics work?
The main job of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. Think of it as keeping your body in neutral. When you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. This knocks your body out of balance. Good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.
Good bacteria keeps you healthy by supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:
- Help your body digest food.
- Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
- Create vitamins.
- Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
- Breakdown and absorb medications.
This balancing act is naturally happening in your body all of the time. You don’t actually need to take probiotic supplements to make it happen. Good bacteria is just a natural part of your body. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps to keep the number of good bacteria at proper levels.
What are the most common types of probiotic bacteria?
Though there are many types of bacteria that can be considered probiotics, there are two specific types of bacteria that are common probiotics found in stores. These include:
Probiotics are also made up of good yeast. The most common type of yeast found in probiotics is:
- Saccharomyces boulardii.
Food With Good Bacteria
Luckily, there are a ton of different foods that can help you get your good bacteria fix. Here, 12 probiotic foods you should add to your diet:
Swap the ketchup and mustard for sauerkraut at your next cookout. Made from fermented cabbage, this dish is great as a topping for hotdogs and as an accompaniment to barbecue.
One shopping tip from Hamshaw is to steer clear of the canned food aisles and look for sauerkraut and other fermented foods in the refrigerated section. “Shelf-stable sauerkraut or pickled vegetables may have undergone processes to extend shelf life that kill their live organisms,” she explains.
Per cup serving: 27 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g sat fat), 6 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 939 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 1 g protein.
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Yogurt is likely the first food that you think of when you hear the word “probiotics,” and to tap into its full potential, look for brands that say “live active cultures” on the label. While you’re looking at that label, Hamshaw also recommends that you check for added sweeteners if you want to avoid the extra sugar.
Per 7 oz serving, lowfat Greek yogurt: 146 calories, 3.84 g fat (2.46 g sat fat), 7.88 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 68 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 19.9 g protein.
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This fermented soybean dish from Japan, often served for breakfast, is known for its distinct taste and particular smell, and it packs a nutritional punch. The bacteria used in the fermenting process was found to contain a variety of vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids in a Journal of Bacteriology study.
Per 1 cup serving: 369 calories, 19.2 g fat (2.8 g sat fat), 22.2 g carbohydrates, 8.5 g sugar, 12.2 mg sodium, 9.45 g fiber, 34 g protein.
Whether you eat them as part of a charcuterie board or as a martini garnish, olives are a good source of probiotic bacteria. Plus, Italian researchers found that Sicilian green olives can almost act like an antioxidant when eaten regularly, reducing inflammation.
Per 100 g serving: 145 calories, 15.3 g fat (2 g sat fat), 3.84 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 1560 mg sodium, 3.3 g fiber, 1 g protein.
This fermented tea is packed with beneficial bacteria and B vitamins—and it aids digestion, so it can help you de-bloat, too. If you’re not into the strong, briny taste, kombucha is just one of several probiotic drinks out there on the market.
Per 8 oz serving (Health-Aide brand): 35 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 7 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein.
6. Apple cider vinegar
ACV has a lot of purported health benefits (some legit, some not so much), but it really does contain probiotics. Just don’t drink it in straight shots because it’s so acidic—it’s better paired with other foods.
Per tablespoon serving: 3 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 0.14 carbohydrates, 0.06 g sugar, 1 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein.
Pile this condiment on all your sandwiches and rice dishes; it’s made from cabbage fermented with strains of beneficial lactic acid bacteria, says Jackie Newgent, RD. As an added bonus, many fermented vegetables have a longer shelf life than fresh ones.
Per cup serving: 22.5 calories, .75 g fat (0 g sat fat), 3.6 g carbohydrates, 1.59 g sugar, 747 mg sodium, 2.4 g