Probiotics for Digestive Health

By: Lilli Rozanski MS, RDN, LDN, Sports and Fitness Dietitian, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center

Our digestive health starts with what is called our “gut microbiome,” which is the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes living in our body. Healthy adults usually have over 1000 species of bacteria in their digestive system. This amounts to over 100 trillion and 3-5 pounds of bacteria in our digestive system. Long story short, there is a LOT of these guys – these bacteria cells outnumber our cells about 10-1!

One way to help keep our digestive system happy and healthy is to supply it with more beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that line our digestive tract and help with digestion and immune function. Probiotics work to promote your health by traveling through the colon and interacting with different cells (like immune cells) and nutrients along the way. Probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. When looking for food containing probiotics, look for the term “active cultures” or “contains live cultures” on the label. Probiotics can also be taken in the form of a supplement if desired.

Watch a Video on the Benefits of Probiotics

When it comes to athletes, recent studies found probiotic benefits for immune function, the digestive system, and improved recovery from training. A few studies even found that athletes who took probiotics regularly had less sick days than those not taking probiotics, with some avoiding the common cold altogether. Athletes taking probiotics also saw less gastrointestinal issues during long exercise and, when exercise and training caused stress inside the athlete’s body, research found probiotics helped decrease the “stress” effects, improving sleep, cognition, and mood. In summary, probiotics helped the athlete to recover both physically and mentally!

(Blog references available upon request.)