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The Gut Check: Popularity Of 'Probiotics' Reflects Desire For More Intestinal Fortitude

Jamie Lee Curtis may have made probiotics a household word as a spokeswoman for Activia yogurt, but the idea of regulating the digestive tract by adding good bacteria to the intestinal mix is nothing new.

In 1907, Russian-born scientist Eli Metchnikoff suggested that better health could be had by replacing harmful intestinal microbes with good microbes. Like Curtis, Metchnikoff settled on yogurt, brimming with probiotics — good bacteria — as the great regulator.

Humans have been consuming probiotics in such forms as yogurt and buttermilk for more than 4,000 years.

Now, consumers on the run can pop their probiotics in pill form, courtesy of the nation's food-supplement manufacturers, a healthy industry that rang up $24 billion sales in 2007, according to Nutrition Business Journal research.

And there's a strain of probiotics for every disorder.

Some brands promote colon health or relief from irritable bowel syndrome, while others promise the joy of regularity as long as you take the product every day.

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