Foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, miso soup and tempeh contain a wealth of probiotics. Other probiotic sources include pickles, kimchi, kombucha tea, kefir and microalgae.
Probiotics are helpful bacteria that maintain the balance of good and pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Imbalance between the two can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and stomach upset. Bacterial imbalances are achieved when stress, acidic diets and unhealthy lifestyle choices destroy the body's probiotics. They can be replenished by taking daily supplements and consuming probiotic-rich foods.
The most common probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria bifidum. Lactobacillus acidophilus helps the body fight pathogens present in the food and the environment at large. Bifidobacteria bifidum assists in the breakdown of proteins that make it into the colon without being properly digested.
Beyond their main functions, probiotics offer several health benefits. They strengthen the immune system and help prevent stomach upset while taking a course of antibiotics. Probiotics reduce lactose intolerance and occurrences of yeast infections like vaginitis and candidiasis. They aid in the maintenance of healthy skin and help the body avoid constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel system. They also increase calcium absorption and vitamin B synthesis, help to remedy halitosis and have proven helpful when fighting upper respiratory disorders.