Q. Do I need to buy specialty foods to get probiotics?
A. Not necessarily. Small amounts of good bacteria can be found in fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. And while trying one of the new fortified foods—everything from orange juice and cereal to pizza and chocolate bars—may sound more appetizing than, say, spooning up sauerkraut, keep in mind that not all of these options offer the same probiotic effects. "Cultured dairy products, like yogurt, provide a cool, moist environment for bacteria to thrive in," says Gorbach. "But most strains don’t live as long when added to dry goods." To make sure you’re getting the hardiest forms, look for a product with bifidobacterium, lactobacillus GG (LGG), or L. reuteri on its ingredients panel.
Q. Can I take a probiotic supplement instead of changing my diet?
A. Yes—you’ll get more bacteria from most capsules, powders, and pills than you will from a container of yogurt. Plus, popping a supplement while taking antibiotics may help lower your risk for side effects, like diarrhea, by 52 percent, finds a Yeshiva University study. Other research shows supplements may reduce the duration and severity of a cold. Look for one that contains 10 to 20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), and read the label to learn how it should be stored.