Probiotics: The Good Bacteria

by in Healthy Tips, January 26, 2009

“Probiotic” — seems like that word pops up more and more in the dairy aisle these days. Many foods are sporting probiotic labels and promising digestive bliss, but does this bacteria deserve all the hype? Here are the basics.

What Are Probiotics?
These are live microorganisms that help keep your digestive system in working order. Your digestive tract is teeming with bacteria — the good guys help breakdown food, while the bad guys can cause illness. Since only a certain amount of bacteria occupies your digestive tract at one time, eating probiotics helps outnumber unhealthy bacteria. Keeping a balance of good regulates digestion and may also benefit the immune system.

Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics are in yogurt, some cheeses and fermented dairy products such as kefir, a cultured milk beverage that tastes similar to yogurt, only thinner.

When probiotic browsing, check labels for the two most common ones: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. On an ingredient list, these are usually abbreviated as “L.” or “B.” followed by the specific species name (examples: L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum). Don’t worry about looking for special packaging or paying a premium; most yogurt products contain these types of good bacteria. Probiotics are also in non-dairy foods — soy products such as miso and tempeh. Some snack foods — granola bars, for example — have them added.

Supplements are also available in capsule and powder forms. Folks often take probiotic pills to help alleviate an upset stomach while traveling. And if you’re on antibiotics, you may want to take in some extra probiotics (from food or supplements); antibiotic medications zap all the bacteria in your body — healthy and unhealthy. But remember, before taking any supplements while on medication (or anytime really), check with your doctor.

Ways to Enjoy Them
If you’re worried about it affecting your diet, no need. Foods with probiotics tend to be whole foods that are loaded with nutrients. Nonfat or low-fat yogurt is an easy snack; you can also add it to salad dressings or beverages. Try a mango lassi to cool off a spicy meal or add yogurt to a flavorful meat marinade. Kefir gives smoothies creaminess and tang.

For more on the science and specifics of probiotics, check out the National Institutes of Health.

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Comments (27)

  1. macgaff says:

    I have always wondered about this, great article!

  2. Mary says:

    Good article

  3. Cecelia says:

    Since Probiotic yogurt contains live yogurt cultures is it alright to eat it past the fresh date on the package.

  4. elizabeth says:

    there is literally an epidemic of CDF, a very difficult to treat disease that can be very difficult to treat and is killing many. It is caused by the overuse of antibiotics and is highly contageous. Ironically enough it is treated with the use of high doses of super antibiotics. My mother passed away recently from the ravages of this disease. Everyone should be on probiotics. Most probiotics in food have lost there effectiveness by the time they are consumed. Yogurt is one of example of a food advertising its probiotic qualities when in actuality, the probiotics are gone by the time consumed. This article was a piece of fluff!

  5. tobie says:

    The Best probiotics are “The Garden of Life” Primal Defense caplets. Really Great. The article was good but brief. It barely touched on all of the benefits of adding probiotics to your diet. Probiotics changed my health drastically.

  6. pam on 1/28/09 at 7:30 pm says:

    thanks…much appreciated!

  7. ardee says:

    Thank you, I was not quite sure what and where probiotics were. Very good article.

  8. Kathy says:

    I have never had a yeast infection in my life and after taking Probiotics, I have had re-occuring ones. This is from the National Institutes of Health.
    website. Probiotics might theoretically cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics, especially in people with underlying health conditions.

  9. Dana White says:

    Hi Cecelia- It is always best to follow the use by dates, they are there to help protect the freshness and overall quality of foods.

  10. Margo says:

    GNC (the dietary supplement store in business for over 70 years) has a great probiotic supplement called “Super Acidophillis” containing over 10 billion CFUs of the culture. Convenient & easy to take.

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