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Taking care of your gut health is very important and can have a ripple effect throughout your whole body. You see, according to Harvard Health Publishing, the gut microbiota—all the good and bad bacteria that live inside your digestive system—can not only influence your digestion but may also have an impact on a variety of health conditions, like heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
A healthy gut can also protect you from illness. According to UC Davis, a gut that's in good health contains healthy bacteria and immune cells to ward off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. There's also a connection with your brain. It communicates through nerves and hormones to maintain general health.
In short, it's a big deal. There are a couple of things you can do to promote good gut health. Johns Hopkins Medicine says lifestyle habits like getting more sleep, getting regular exercise, reducing stress, and getting help for mental health issues like anxiety and depression are all important. And of course, one of the biggest factors is food. Avoiding processed and fried foods is key, as is controlling your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
But if you want more of an assist, you can add prebiotics and probiotics to your diet and daily routine. Probiotics are the "good" kind of bacteria that can improve the health of your gut by helping to balance the environment. You can get them through certain foods and supplements.
Now, before you start adding these to cart, there is still more research that needs to be done on the benefits of probiotics. For the most part, people can generally take them and experience minimal side effects—bloating, gas, and diarrhea are some—but before you decide to consume, it might be best to talk with your doctor or a healthcare professional about your specific needs. The Mayo Clinic says you should proceed with extra caution if you are taking an antibiotic or prescription drug that affects your immune system, are being treated for a fungal infection, or have pancreatitis. The Clinic also says that probiotics might not be safe for people who get infections often, have a weakened immune system, or are allergic or sensitive to sources of probiotics like dairy.
If you are looking to improve your gut health or want to do more research into what products can help, we've rounded up some below, from supplements to food to beverages.
Our editors are big fans of Seed's prebiotic and probiotic combination supplement. The formula includes 24 clinically studied probiotic strains and prebiotic compounds sourced from pomegranate, Chaga mushroom, and pine bark. It's supposed to not only benefit your gut but also affect your skin and heart health. Seed says many people start to feel results in 24 to 48 hours.
Another editor-favorite, this is a two-in-one capsule that's derived from 100% organic chicory root and is vegan. The gentle formula won't irritate the stomach and will help aid digestion, fight bloat, and rebalance the microbiome. It's recommended to take three capsules daily, preferably in the morning with breakfast.
With over 13,000 ratings and 4.5 stars on Amazon, this formula comes highly recommended. The capsules also increase calcium absorption and support more vitamin production. One Amazon reviewer said, "I've been using these probiotics for three months now and I started noticing a difference after five days. I feel less bloated, more regular, and have actually lost a few pounds (even over the holidays), which was a pleasant surprise! I take one tablet, once a day while getting ready for work. Now, my body can tell when I don't take them."
This prebiotic and probiotic supplement is formulated specially to balance the gut but also reduce non-cystic acne and improve dry skin. One Dermstore reviewer wrote, "This has made such a difference in my skin and overall health. My skin doesn't break out as easily as it used to, and my digestion has improved as well. I don't feel as bloated as I used to sometimes, and I don't feel as sluggish and weighed down."
Moon Juice's probiotics have four strains to balance your microflora, boost immunity, elevate your mood and energy levels, and even combat your sugar cravings. It comes in powder form, so you can add it to beverages like water, smoothies, and iced lattes.
Sakara Life's offerings are another favorite in our office, and the brand's daily probiotic is a best seller. The supplement contains 11 strains and a prebiotic blend to ensure it's efficiently absorbed. It's recommended to take one to two capsules daily with water, either 30 to 60 minutes before a meal or two hours after a meal.
Another highly rated choice on Amazon, this probiotic is formulated with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria to help digestion and relieve constipation. And because it's specifically made for women, it also contains strains for vaginal health.
Probiotic supplements also come in gummy form. These are like the peach rings you probably used to eat as a kid. They're made to support digestion and keep your gut bacteria balanced. One Amazon reviewer said, "If anything I know these get my digestive system moving. I feel better and more balanced... They taste better than most gummy vitamins."
With 10 probiotic strains, this supplement promotes healthy digestion and aids in detoxification. One Amazon reviewer wrote, "This has quickly become an everyday must for me. I take one in the morning, and one before bed. Since taking these, my stomach has been so much better. It is incredible how your stomach can control your mood and drive."
These probiotics are another Amazon favorite. They have over 11,000 ratings and 4.5 stars. The vegan supplements are made with 10 probiotic strains to reduce gas and bloat, help with constipation, and bolster the immune system. One Amazon reviewer said, "Even though I have been taking probiotics by another brand for a year now, I noticed almost immediate results with Physicians 60 Billion Probiotics within the first week! Far less bloating with my stomach looking like a huge balloon, no intestinal pain, and easier more consistent bowel movements."
Nature's Bounty probiotics contain 100 million active Lactobacillus acidophilus to maintain gut health. It's recommended to take one capsule daily with a meal. An Amazon reviewer wrote, "[It] helps with bloating and immune support. I can tell the difference if I dont take this particular probiotic."
Labeled an Amazon's Choice, these supplements contain 20 probiotic strains and prebiotic fiber. They're 100% vegetarian and non-GMO. One Amazon review reads, "Literally the best thing you can get for your body! I was having bad stomach problems and it vanished after two days of taking these regularly."
Fermented foods like kimchi are a great source of probiotics. This particular brand is all natural, has no preservatives, and is gluten-free.
If you want to add more probiotics to your diet, you can also get them from yogurt. Chobani is a good option with live and active cultures.
Sauerkraut's another fermented food to add to the list. When choosing one, you'll want to get a fresh option, like this one from Sonoma Brinery that goes through all-natural processing.
Yet another fermented food, miso is great for not only soup but also dressings, marinades, and more.
You can also get your probiotics from granola bars, like Kind's breakfast versions. These contain 500 million CFU probiotic cultures per serving and are made with five super grains.
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Kombucha is a probiotic-packed beverage that can help promote digestion and boost immunity. HealthAde's Pink Lady is one of my favorite flavors—it's subtle, not too sweet, yet still delicious.
Kefir is another option for a probiotic beverage. This one from Wallaby contains 13 different strains of live and active cultures.
GT's kombucha is a popular pick. It's made with organic and raw ingredients and fermented in small batches.
Yakult's popular probiotic drink has been around for a long time, but it recently got even more press thanks to the Netflix movie To All the Boys I've Loved Before. The yogurt drink contains protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—but most importantly, it's deliciously tart and sweet at the same time.
Several of our editors are big fans of Olipop's sparkling tonics that contain prebiotics to support digestive health. They're a great option to break your soda habit, too.
There are also some teas that contain probiotics, too, like this lemon ginger herbal blend with probiotic BC 30. It will help your digestive health and you can drink it hot or iced.
Kevita is another drink to support gut health, as it contains billions of live probiotics. The sparkling drinks are made with kefir and come in a variety of flavors like lime mint coconut, strawberry açaí coconut, and lemon cayenne.