8 Reasons Probiotics Should Be Part of Your Diet

These living microorganisms can be particularly beneficial for women.

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Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria) similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. These useful digest food, produce vitamins, and destroy bad microorganisms that might cause disease. When the body's ratio of good to bad bacteria is in balance, our immune systems and digestive health improve.

Yogurts, keffir, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, and kimchi are all good sources of natural occurring probiotics. Get the optimal benefits from yogurt by choosing those with no sugar or low sugar, as sugar can nourish the bad bacteria in the gut.

When choosing a dietary supplement, it's important to know that different strains of probiotics serve different needs. The strain of probiotic that Fasig might recommend for someone on an antibiotic for strep throat would be a different strain than the one she'd recommend to someone diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example.

"Most of us have been exposed to at least one antibiotic in our lives — usually more than that for most of us — and that automatically decreases our ratio of so-called good to bad bacteria," says naturopathic physician , adding that recent research shows when that ratio of good to bad bacteria is out of sync it may put us at higher risk for chronic disease, inflammation, and even chronic infections.

Not convinced? Taking probiotics on a regular basis may help with all of the following:

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1 Restore good bacteria.
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You know antibiotics can help fight off bacterial infections, but unfortunately overusing them can deplete all the good bacteria in your body in the process, says . That's why doctors recommend not taking antibiotics unless you really need them — but if you must go on meds, probiotics can help recover beneficial microorganisms afterward.

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2 Prevent urinary tract infections.
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Many of Fasig's patients with a tendency toward urinary tract infections experienced a decrease in frequency and intensity after taking probiotics regularly.

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3 Bolster immunity.
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If you get sick often, probiotics might be the immune booster you've been looking for. According to the , they've been shown to strengthen immunity by enriching and replenishing the good bacteria in the body. And when you eat probiotics on the regular, you can better "synthesize minerals and produce vitamins and enzymes that help the immune system and keep the intestines healthy."

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4 Improve fertility.
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Looking to expand your family? "For my patients either thinking about trying to get pregnant or thinking about fertility issues, there's a lot of now that making sure there's good ratios of certain strains of probiotics can also help with fertility," says Fasig.

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5 Prevent traveler's diarrhea.
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Fasig recommends a shelf-stable probiotic that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus sporogenes, Bifidophilus bifidum, and Sacchromyces boulardii ($20, ) when traveling to preempt bathroom emergencies. For everyday use, many of Fasig's female patients who've suffered from constipation or diarrhea reported improvement of symptoms when on a probiotic regimen. Probiotics can also improve IBS symptoms, though Fasig cautions that IBS patients shouldn't take dairy-based probiotics.

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6 Treat vaginal infections.
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Probiotics can ward off vaginal yeast infections, urogenital infections, and bacterial vaginosis by keeping the vaginal microbiome in balance. have shown that taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum ($25, ) daily can .

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7 Clear up skin problems.
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The benefits of probiotics doesn't stop with internal health. Recent shows that, whether applied topically or taken orally, probiotics might also help with with acne, rosacea, and eczema too ($50; ).

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8 Boost digestion.
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Those microbes in your lower intestinal tract are responsible for helping you digest your food, and taking probiotics can do a lot of good for keeping everything running, umm, smoothly. According to , taking them on the regular can help reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, like gas, bloating, and constipation.

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