What are Probiotics?

 

It seems that Probiotics have been on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately with the increasing awareness of health and food. So what are they? They are a type of ‘good’ bacteria that help with digestion and protect you from the bad bacteria along your digestive tract. There are already millions of good bacteria inside doing just that, but what is the harm in a few million more helping to keep you clean.

There are two types of probiotic bacteria, Bifidobacterium (bifodobacteria, bifido, bifidobacillus) and Lactobacillus. Bifido bacteria are found naturally in the body and not naturally found in foods. Foods that have these bacteria are added to benefit your health. Lactobacillus is also found naturally in the body but can be found naturally in dairy products as well. Lacto is also found in a healthy vagina and important in maintaining the pH balance down there and lowering chances of yeast infections. It is also needed to ferment foods.

These two bacteria’s are usually found together in probiotic products to give you the best possible protection and fight those nasty bad bacteria.

5 Benefits of Probiotics

  • Inhibits growth of bad bacteria
  • Anti- diarrhea effects and stool regularity
  • Helps the immune system regulate the growth or development of certain allergies
  • Improves gastrointestinal health
  • Helps to relieve lactose intolerance symptoms

 Foods Containing Probiotics

Yogurt is the top source, but make sure to look for labels that read, live and active cultures, of both Lacto & Bifido, because not all yogurts are made the same. During the manufacturing process the live bacteria are destroyed, so many add them in after. If you are choosing to get your good bacteria through yogurts, a good rule of thumb is to do some research. Kefir is another great source to find the live probiotic bacteria as is aged cheeses like cheddar, parmesan and swiss.

Fermented Foods

These are a great source of live bacteria as long as they have not been killed off in the manufacturing process or have been pasteurized, so make sure to read labels. Foods like sauerkraut or kimchi (a type of Korean cabbage), pickles, miso (is made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley) and tempeh (fermented from soy).

*I chose NOT to add Kombucha because even though there is a ton of claims about the benefits, there are just as many saying the opposite. Not to mention there have been very few researched studies.

Also consider that the FDA has not yet regulated probiotics, so it is not a good idea to take claims made by companies at face value. A lot of products out there are jumping on the bandwagon and not giving the consumer all the information. Read products carefully and look for food labels that give you information on bacteria’s species and genus, as well as microbe count.

 

 

 

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