Good bacteria that lives in our gut can help our digestive system, but biochemist Shawn Talbott says within the last couple of years, scientists have discovered probiotic strains can do so much more.
"What we're learning is that probiotics can have benefits all throughout the body. They can be good for the skin or the brain or the heart or your muscles or your waistline," said Talbott.
Each strain has a specific function.
"It's not that one strain will do everything for someone and so that's why it's really important for someone when they're looking for a probiotic look on the back of the box to see, what does this specific strain do?" Talbott said.
Talbott said Align and Culturelle are two products that can help fight bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Trubiotics is known for supporting the immune system, which may help fight off colds and flu. Digestive Advantage is more general, a prebiotic "multivitamin," so to speak. It is very shelf-stable and easily taken. And Menta-biotics targets mood.
"So this idea of helping people with depression and anxiety and stress, there are specific strains that help with those sorts of things because a lot of the neurotransmitters that are made in our body. Our serotonin and dopamine are actually made in our gut," said Talbott.
And all of these probiotics are hungry for good food.
It's a lower-sugar high-fiber diet that helps these products do their job but Talbott says get ready for the next big thing, pre-biotics supplements.
Look to foods like asparagus, oatmeal, black beans, avocado to help pre-biotics do their job, as well. It's especially important, as not everyone eats a stellar diet. "If you choose the right one, they can grow good bacteria and also starve out bad bacteria as bad bacteria will sometimes grow on sugar," said Talbott.
Keep in mind, when you take them, and how much you take may differ depending on the supplement, so make sure to check labels for each strain.
Some probiotics designed for specific purposes beyond gut health