Probiotics are supplements containing the beneficial bacteria that normally inhabit the human digestive tract. They help to complete the digestive process - there's even evidence that without them, the immune system can't work properly, lessening resistance to infection. You may want to consider probiotics if one or more of the following applies apply to you:
• You are on antibiotics, which can wipe out "friendly" intestinal bacteria along with the bad bugs that cause infections
• You have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis
• You are traveling in underdeveloped countries, and want to reduce the risk of traveler's diarrhea
Most of these helpful bacteria occur naturally in cultured milk products, such as yogurt with active cultures or acidophilus milk and kefir, as well as naturally fermented pickles and sauerkraut. However, concentrations in these foods may not be high enough to be effective - you may want to take probiotics in liquid or capsule form.
The dose is one tablespoon of the liquid culture or one to two capsules after meals unless the label directs otherwise. Always check the expiration date to make sure that the bacteria these products contain are alive and in good condition and look for probiotics with "colony forming units" (CFUs) in the billions. After you buy, be sure to protect your supply from heat, moisture, and air.