Nutrition Articles

Probiotics: A Billion Good Bugs

Friendly Bacteria for Your Digestive System

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Did you know that your digestive tract contains more than 400 types of “friendly” bacteria? These little guys, commonly referred to as probiotics (which means "pro-life"), help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. That’s right! Probiotics are live bacteria with clinically-documented health benefits.

Health Benefits
It appears that when the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems greatly benefit as well. Probiotics may:
  • Protect against infection
  • Enhance and boost the immune system
  • Promote and improve digestive health
  • Alleviate diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatments
  • Promote urinary and genital health
  • Assist in the management of inflammation
  • Help alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance
  • Improve some types of eczema in infants and children
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Decrease the risk of certain cancers
It is important to note that each type of friendly bacteria has a specific health benefit to the body. With over 400 different types of probiotics identified, researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each.

Food Sources
Currently, foods that contain probiotics are primarily dairy products and dairy beverages, including:
  • Yogurt
  • Drinkable and squeezable yogurts
  • Fluid milk with added probiotics
  • Fermented milk such as sweet acidophilus milk
  • Kefir
Through fermentation, probiotics enhance the flavor and texture of these particular dairy products. Dairy foods actually buffer your stomach acid and bile, thereby protecting the probiotics from the stomach acid so that they can reach the intestines.

Raw (unpasteurized) yogurt is loaded with bacteria. Most yogurts today are pasteurized and these bacteria are killed. However, some friendly bacteria are added back. Look for a yogurt that contains the “live and active culture” sign on the label. Pay close attention to the expiration date because these live bacterial cultures can diminish with time.

Probiotic Supplements
Probiotic supplements are available in a variety of forms, such as freeze dried powder, capsules, wafers, and liquids. Remember to exercise caution before using a probiotic supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements in the same way as it regulates medication. Legally, manufacturers can sell supplements, even with little or no research on how well it works or how safe it is.

Supplement and medication reactions can occur, therefore seek the guidance of your health care provider before using any probiotic supplement.

Grab Some Bugs!
Why not give some fermented dairy products a try today? Little Miss Muffet did! Remember her curds and whey—a fermented dairy product filled with friendly bacteria? That old spider probably came and sat down be side her…because he wanted the probiotic benefits too!

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Member Comments

  • Take a probiotic daily.
  • What the heck??? Probiotics are found in a lot more than just dairy products - do you work for the national dairy association or something?
    How about sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso paste, kimchi...
    Anything fermented will have probiotics.
  • MIKE_HARPER
    I've been taking probiotics for years now and have really noticed the difference. I feel much healthier now that I did several years ago. I've been reading sits like http://bestprobio
    tics.org and a few more to increase my knowledge in this good bacteria.
  • MSSTAMPER35
    probiotics are not dangerous. Doctors and big pharm don' want you taking them and finding out that the medication that they make billions of dollars on is just ridiculously over-prescribed and mostly needed due to our completely unhealthy lifestyle. We gorge on processed foods, bleached flours and sugars and spend millions on who knows what that is in fast food and we do that so that doctors can prescribe the medications that there friends in the food industry made us sick for. So of course they want you to think that this stuff is not safe to take with "certain" medications. It's not safe cause it will cause a loss of profit to your doctor and to a whole lot of other people and even if your doctor is a real nice guy who would never think like that he was programmed to in med school without even knowing he was being programmed. I'm sure he is a nice guy he just didn't have a chance.
  • ETHELMERZ
    If you take certain meds, check with a doctor before eating this stuff, it can change the way your body uses the meds, or the body won't be able to use the meds properly because you gut is making the med useless..........
    ..be warned!! Don't just watch the cutesy ads and buy anything and swallow it down, isn't good for everyone at all.
  • Thank you for making my day and making me smile. Just the thought of that little spider sitting down next to Little Miss Muffet with hopes to share her curds and whey....what a visual!!!
  • JEANGAIJIN
    I would didn't real all the comments, so maybe this was addressed before, but there are many, many other probiotic-contain
    ing foods other than yogurt! Fermentation and pickling were worldwide methods of food preservation, and they still work great to produce very healthy, yummy food that's loaded with probiotics. In many cases, the fermentation process also improves the nutrient content of food and makes it more accessible. In addition, the lactic acid produced by the fermentation keeps bad bacteria from growing, so it's a very safe way to prepare food at home. Properly fermented food will keep for months.

    Think about sauerkraut, home-made pickles, kombucha, kimchi... the list is very long! I've been doing this for about the last year, making kombucha, kimchi, kefir, home-made sauerkraut at home in my kitchen. My digestion is better and so is my energy level! It's so much cheaper and easier to make this stuff at home than to buy it in the store, and it's of course possible to control exactly what's in it.
    For example, a bottle of kombucha (a probiotic fermented tea drink) is $3.99 for a 16-oz bottle; I can make a gallon at home in about 4 days for the cost of one cup of sugar and 5 tea bags!

    I urge anyone who's interested to check out resources on the web about this; two good sites are culturedfoodlife.
    com and culturesforhealth
    .com. There are also tons of YouTube videos out there with recipes and how-to tips. Feel free to message me if you want more info!
  • I always figured little miss Muffett was eating cottage cheese...

    I've been using probiotics for a while now, sometimes by eating yogurt, sometimes by taking wafers and sometimes by taking probiotic gummies. The labels of the pills and gummies say that their probiotics survive the stomach acids better than the probiotics in yogurt, but I don't know...

    In any case, I think changing it up a bit is a good thing. I LOVE the flavor of plain, non-fat yogurt mixed with a little bit of fruit, and the wafers are kind of hard to take.
  • JAISA311
    If you have IBS you maybe lactose intolerant so be sure your probiotic capsule is dairy free. It should say it on the bottle.
  • I love yogurt with fruit. Its great.
  • MELODY1217
    I have horrific IBS and finally capitulated to my mom's insistance that I try a Probiotic supplement. I can honestly tell you that i was in excruciating PAIN for 2 weeks. I have never had gas like that before or felt that much intestinal pain for a long time. And I know intestinal pain. All I can say is that I don't think my digestive tract ever fully recovered from that experiment a year ago and I don't think I'll ever try it again.
  • @ILOVEBIRDEEZ: What is the source for your assertion that casein protein, occuring naturally in dairy (milk, cheese, etc) is a carcinogen?

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.