Probiotics are live bacteria that reside in the body, which are necessary for health. We are born with a natural array of these digestive bacteria and we gain/replenish stores by eating naturally fermented foods (like natural yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut). In a healthy body, bacterial cells out number our human cells by about 10x; however, with increased consumption of processed foods, diets with little variety, and the use of prescription antibiotics, we tend to lose a lot of these digestive catalysts, making supplementation necessary. Probiotic supplementation is attracting attention in sports communities as an approach to promote good health and exercise performance— a recent comprehensive review of probiotic supplementation in athletes, published in the European Journal of Sport Science concluded that:
- Gastrointestinal health is essential for regulating adaptation to exercise. Symptoms such as nausea, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea occur in many athletes, particularly during prolonged exhaustive events.
- Probiotic supplementation in highly active individuals during competition and stressful training periods reduces frequency, severity and/or duration of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness.
- Mechanisms of action for probiotics include boosting the gut microbiota and interactions with the immune system and immune signaling in a variety of organs.
ACTION POINT: Probiotics come in many different forms, the most common ones include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria—which also have many strains. The easiest way to get into the world of probiotics, is to choose a probiotic product that includes an array of different forms of bacteria. Make sure the product you choose contains enough bacteria to provide at least 9-10 billion colony forming units (cfu) daily. Take as directed with food and always refrigerate after opening.
Pyne DB, West NP, Cox AJ, Cripps AW. Probiotics supplementation for athletes – clinical and physiological effects. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15(1):63-72.