Probiotic foods and supplements are among the fastest growing sectors in the health food marketplace, thanks to an explosion of popular and scientific interest in the “microbiome.” It’s clear that the bacteria that live in and on our bodies have an enormous impact on our health—one that we are only just beginning to explore.

But commerce isn’t one to wait around for all the data to come in. Although we have a long way to go to before we understand exactly how to influence and interact with our microbiota, we’re already being bombarded with new products: probiotic powders, juices, teas, fizzy vegetables, funky soybeans, and fermented grains. Some of these are traditional foods that have been around for thousands of years, of course. But until a year or two ago, you wouldn’t have found them on your grocer’s shelf with a bar code.

All of these probiotic foods, by definition, contain beneficial bacteria. And the hope is that by eating more of them, we will end up with more of them in our intestines. Stocking the pond, as it were.


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