As far as health trends go, probiotics are the new green juice. Every day there seems to be new headlines about how this “good bacteria” is responsible for everything from keeping your digestive track running properly to fighting liver cancer. So what’s really behind this 46 billion dollar industry? Get all the facts here.

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What probiotics are
Probiotics are live bacteria in your gut. Their basic job is to help digest food and keep your intestine functioning properly.

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Is diet enough?
Foods like yogurt, fermented cabbage — like sauerkraut and kimchi — and raw cheeses are high in probiotics, but some studies have found that the vast majority of the live bacteria in these foods can’t survive the acidity in the stomach to make it to the small and large intestines.

Manhattan Gastroenterology’s Dr. Kathlynn Caguiat tells us that if you are experiencing any reoccurring digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea, taking a probiotic in pill form is worth a shot. “There are a lot of studies on probiotics and some say they are very helpful while some say there is no good evidence that they are helpful. But there is no evidence that I have come across that says they’re harmful,” she says. “I always tell my patients, if they are taking probiotics and it’s helping them, then continue to take them. But if they aren’t helping, don’t waste your money.”

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How to know which pills are effective
Not all probiotics OTCs are created equal. Instead of just buying the cheapest one or first one you see, do your research. Just like foods containing probiotics, some of the probiotic OTCs can’t survive stomach acid. So make sure the pills have an enteric coating that will work as a barrier.

Get ready, things are about to get scientific: When researching supplements, make sure it includes these two probiotic strands: L. acidophilus and B. bifidum. L. acidophilus helps the nutrients you eat get absorbed properly and B. bifidum helps digest dairy products, which many people have trouble digesting on their own.

Too much to remember? We did the hard search for you and found that the brands proven by science to the most effective are Thrive, Florastor and Culturelle Probiotics.

There does seem to be something to the probiotic hype, especially if you experience frequent digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. The most important thing is to be an educated consumer, making sure the probiotics you consume live long enough to do you some good.

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