Everywhere you turn there is a significant buzz about adding probiotics to your diet. But what are they? Basically, they are "good" bacteria added to foods or occurring naturally in certain yogurts, fermented dairy drinks, and in supplement form. Probiotics have been used as a form of treatment for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases including irritable bowel.
How do they work?
Our digestive tracts are lined with more than 400 different kinds of good bacteria that help fight off infection and keep us healthy. By consuming foods with probiotics, you can increase the number of healthy bacteria, boost your immunity, and promote a healthy digestive system
Where to start?
Not all probiotics are the same. Figuring out which is beneficial can be a daunting task….
Probiotics are available in foods and dietary supplements (for example, capsules, tablets, and powders) and in some other forms as well. Examples of foods containing probiotics are yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, tempeh, and some juices and soy beverages. In probiotic foods and supplements, the bacteria may have been present originally or added during preparation.
FOOD: The only yogurts that contain probiotics are the ones that say "live and active cultures" on the label. Within the "live and active cultures" yogurts, some products contain significantly more healthy bacteria than others.
There is certainly no harm and lots of potential benefit in using yogurt or a fermented dairy drink to boost your intestinal health. Yogurt is a terrific snack or part of a healthy meal and is a nutritional powerhouse, containing an excellent source of calcium (450 milligrams per cup) and protein (13 grams per cup). Best bets: Choose yogurts with live and active cultures that are low-fat or nonfat without lots of extra sugar. Pay attention to the expiration date; live cultures diminish with time.
Even if you have trouble digesting milk, the friendly bacteria in yogurt help digest the lactose and make it more tolerable for lactose-sensitive people.
SUPPLEMENTS: There are many species of friendly bacteria. Probiotics can include a single species or multiple species of bacteria, these vary by brand and product. The best known species are the acidophilus family, which is most important in the small intestine, and the bifidus family, which predominates in the colon or large intestine. But there are other important species, too. So one of the first things to consider is, do you want a single-species formula, a dual species formula, or a more complex multi-species formulas? If in doubt go for the multi-species formulas
Keep in mind that probiotics are temperature-sensitive. They thrive at internal body temperature, which is quite warm at nearly 100 degrees. At temperatures below that, in the absence of moisture and a food substrate, bacteria enter a state of dormancy, almost like hibernation, in which they can survive for a very long time. When bacteria are warmed and approach body temperature, they will become more active, but in the absence of food and moisture, they won’t survive long. So the moral of the story isn’t so much that you have to keep probiotics cold, but you do have to protect them from heat.
Like conventional medicines, dietary supplements may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and nonprescription medicines or other supplements you are taking.

Remember…….Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Probiotics are not a magic potion to prevent or cure disease, but they are considered safe since the good bacteria are already a part of the digestive system. They offer a quick and easy first line of defense along with a healthy diet.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Campanelli, Ph.D., E-RYT, YBR, HHCP has been practicing/teaching/counseling for more than 15yrs. Her practice is a holistic one combining her certifications in Yoga, Yamuna Body Rolling, Thai body, Personal training, Meditation and Board Certified Holistic Health Counselor. Lisa is also certified in Radiant Child Yoga and has dedicated many hours since 2008 at the Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River, NJ.
In 2005 she co-created Padme Yoga, a 200hr Yoga Alliance registered Teacher Training program and is the Owner & Director of Blue Moon Yoga Studio in Shrewsbury, NJ
Lisa has published articles for various publications including Monmouth Health & Life and Currents magazine