There is room in everyone's diet for a little probiotics, and they can help with a myriad of health concerns.
"They're crucial," said Halina Kwiatkowska, who owns Parsley, Sage and Thyme Health Store in Ladner.
The human digestive system is made up of millions of microorganisms. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be ingested through certain foods or supplements. Once in the colon, they multiply and help balance the good and bad bacteria that live there.
However, Kwiatkowska said, research is showing that probiotics can help more than just colon health.
"Eighty to 90 per cent of the immune system is in our gut," she said, adding that poor gut flora can lead increased susceptibility to colds and the flu, and other diseases.
Kwiatkowska said that people with intestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, have poor gut flora. Ongoing poor intestinal health can lead to a host of health problems throughout the body - allergies, asthma, eczema and even mood are all linked to the gut, she said.
Serotonin, the human hormone also known as the "happy hormone," is produced largely in the digestive track and is responsible for maintaining mood balance.
"It goes beyond that whole gastric upset," Kwiatkowska said. "All the research in the world is now done on probiotics."
Taking probiotics is especially important following surgery, a round of antibiotics, or a gastro intestinal illness, she said, adding that one bout of stomach flu can "pretty much wipe out" all the good bacteria.
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut, kosher pickles (pickles made with a salt brine instead of vinegar), kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) and miso paste (Japanese fermented soybean paste). At Parsley, Sage and Thyme, they recommend eating some kind of fermented food with the largest meal of the day, Kwiatkowska said.
There are also a variety of probiotic supplements on the market, which provide a much more potent dose of the beneficial bacteria, she said.
There are many different supplements out there today ranging from six to 10 billion per capsule up to 100 billion. Kwiatkowska recommends looking at the potency, as well as the types of probiotics included.
Some formulas are designed to address specific areas, such as colon, urinary or genital health, while other can help with general health and wellbeing.