Lately I've been blabbing on about probiotics to anybody who will listen. Although there's been buzz around them for the past few years (largely because of those embarrassing Jamie Lee Curtis commercials for Dannon's Activia, aka the yogurt that makes you poop), I was slow to buy into it. I'd sampled various probiotic powders and supplements but never found that they made me feel any different, and they're sort of expensive and pretty confusing. I didn't know whether pill or powder form was better, if they needed to be refrigerated, and if I should skip the supplements and just eat more yogurt—so I wound up throwing in the towel on the whole thing.
But then a few months ago I wrote an article about intestinal health for O, the Oprah Magazine that had me interviewing top GI experts, and they all recommended taking probiotics and said that they personally do so. It seems that there's a growing body of research that "good bacteria," which is what probiotics are, can not only regulate digestion but also boost immunity, prevent chronic diseases and maybe even keep us from gaining weight.
So around November I bought some probiotic capsules and started popping one every few days and I swear I haven't been sick since. This is remarkable, because over the previous few winters I suffered one cold or flu-like thing after another—they'd seem to roll in and crash on me like waves, from October through March (I have school-age children, who've never met a virus that they didn't offer a ride home on their backpacks). But this winter I've barely had to blow my nose, and the only thing I'm doing differently is taking those probiotics.
And if you need something other than that little anecdote to convince you, there's brand new research that a strain of one of the most widely available probiotics, Bifidobacterium, beats ulcers caused by the bacteria H. Pylori.
Just in case you're curious, the specific probiotics I've been taking are Jarro-Dophilus EPS capsules, which contain 8 different species of probiotics and 5 billion organisms per capsule. Since probiotic supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, it's hard to know which ones are worthwhile (especially since if the probiotics aren't handled and stored properly, they can die). But Jarrow, the brand which makes these capsules, seems to be one of the most reputable.
Do you take probiotics? How have they helped you? Let me know in the comments section.
And if you need a laughter break, watch the SNL spoof of the Jamie Lee Curtis Activia yogurt ads here.