What are probiotics?

We've all seen commercials for probiotics, but what exactly are they?

Why are they important? What's the best probiotic brand on the market?

According to Joint FAO/WHO Working Group 2002, probiotics are "a live microorganism which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. "The health benefits of probiotics are mainly to do with gastrointestinal (GI) health. There is a saying that "a healthy gut is the key to a healthy body"1. Our intestines are inhabited by  more than 100 trillion living microorganisms, or bacteria, and generally it's a harmonious balance of both beneficial and harmful varieties.

However, as we age, our lifestyle, stress, and consumption of processed foods can decrease the good bacteria inside of us and increase the bad. An excess of harmful bacteria leads to intestinal putrefaction (rotting and decay inside the gut!), which can cause numerous health problems in the long term. Probiotics are made of good bacteria strains, so the purpose of consuming probiotics is to maintain the number of beneficial bacteria inside the intestines in order to fight off pathogens and disease-causing bacteria.

1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 2001.
Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria,