The science is young, but a number of recent studies suggest that probiotics — live microbes taken as a supplement — can promote digestion, boost immunity, support heart health, and relieve allergy symptoms by boosting the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut. Gregor Reid, chair of human microbiology and probiotics at Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada, says certain strains may even help speed recovery from workouts, ease anxiety, and lower cholesterol.
Integrative physician Frank Lipman already recommends probiotics to most of his patients. "Everyone's microbiome is out of whack because of poor diet, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners that kill good bacteria, and chlorine in water," he says. And though yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods supply some probiotics, "the amount you get from a capsule or powder is so much greater," he says.
Look for refrigerated bottles of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium containing at least 20 billion organisms per pill (avoid those that estimate the number "at time of manufacture"), refrigerate the pills, and take them with a meal.