Do you know enough about probiotics?

July 29, 2015

You may be hearing lots about probiotics but do you know what they are or how they can benefit your health? Keep reading to find out!

Do you know enough about probiotics?

What are probiotics?

Not all bacteria are bad. Live beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, keep down the growth of harmful bacteria in your gut. Too many bad bacteria can lead to gastrointestinal and other health problems. A key food that can combat these bad bacteria is yogurt that contains live, active bacteria cultures. Eating more yogurt could help with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and vaginal yeast infections, to name a few conditions.

Probiotics also produce immunity-enhancing compounds and natural antibiotics that help reduce levels of nasty bacteria in the gut. Getting plenty of good bacteria from yogurt is particularly important when you take antibiotics, which wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, in your gut.

Conditions they fight

  • Allergies
  • Diarrhea
  • Diverticular disease
  • Eczema
  • Flatulence
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ulcers
  • Vaginal yeast infections

Where to find sources of probiotics

Studies have shown that yogourt and fermented milk products, like kefir, that contain live active bacteria cultures can help reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Milk sugar in kefir and yogourt help the bacteria survive the acids in your digestive system. In one study, people with IBS who drank 250 millilitres (one cup) of kefir every day had less abdominal pain than those who took placebos. The relief was on par with that provided by taking two different IBS drugs.

How probiotics help your digestive system

The live beneficial bacteria found in yogourt and other fermented products like kefir help keep the flora in your gut — where many immune cells are located — healthy. Some experts believe that the Western diet no longer includes enough fermented foods to keep a balance of healthy bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts and that the prevalence of allergies, eczema, and other conditions has risen in response.

A common probiotic, acidophilus, helps restore a normal balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract and may be helpful against diarrhea. Because acidophilus boosts levels of "friendly" bacteria in the gut, it improves bowel health in people with diverticular disease, and can relieve gas, bloating, and other digestive complaints. Probiotics also boost the immune system by helping immune cells in the gut to flourish.

Tips for incorporating probiotics into your diet

  • Choose low-fat yogurt that's not overly sweetened and look for "live bacteria" on the container.
  • Get the freshest yogurt you can find; the longer a product has been refrigerated and the more pasteurized it is, the fewer active bacteria it contains.

The best sources of probiotics

  • Kefir (a fermented milk product)
  • Kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables)
  • Miso (fermented soybeans)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Shoyu and Tamari (types of soy sauce)
  • Supplements
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans in cake form)
  • Yogourt with live, active cultures
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