If you’re reading this blog, chances are good you’ve heard of probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are known for supporting digestive and immune health. From my perspective, probiotics are as important as a daily multivitamin and have many healing properties. I have seen so many people get well while taking probiotics.

When people think of probiotics, the first thing that comes to mind is usually yogurt. It’s true that all yogurt is cultured with probiotics, but not all yogurt contains live cultures in the finished product. This is because yogurt must be pasteurized, or heated, to kill off potentially pathogenic bacteria. Unfortunately, this also kills off the beneficial bacteria the yogurt was cultured with. Some yogurts do contain live cultures that are added back in after pasteurization. Next time you buy yogurt, be sure to look for the “live cultures” label.

The limitation of yogurt, however, is the amount of probiotics in yogurt—it’s low. It may not be enough, especially if your gut is out of balance. Unless you want to eat a gallon of yogurt each day, a probiotic supplement is best.

A recent study found that a high-potency (450 billion), multi-strain probiotic was able to ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms in children and adolescents who took the supplement for six weeks. This is a very high dose, but it can take that much (even in children) in certain conditions to rebalance the gut.

On the other hand, a lower dose (even that found in yogurt) can be beneficial for certain health concerns. Another recent study found that a particular probiotic yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis decreased cholesterol and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol in women when eaten for six weeks.

It’s a fact: Bacteria are everywhere. It’s just a matter of striking the right balance. Yet another study found that household dust even contains up to 1,000 different microbe species per gram! (No wonder no one likes to dust!) We can only do so much to reduce our daily exposure to harmful toxins and pathogens, but we can do a lot to improve our health by choosing the right foods and nutrients to optimize the body’s functions.