What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria beneficial for your digestive system and your general health.
Your body contains both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are often referred o as good bacteria because they help maintain optimal bacterial balance in your digestive system. Good bacteria are naturally found in your body and in probiotic foods.
Types of Probiotics
There are a variety of bacteria classified as probiotic. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups.
- Lactobacillus. Found in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
- Bifidobacterium. You can also find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some other conditions.
- Saccharomyces boulardiiis a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.
Probiotics and prebiotics: What’s the difference?
These are live microorganisms – such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi – which in adequate amounts may have health benefits.
Studies have shown they can improve digestion, help protect against disease and enhance immune function. Strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria are the most commonly used probiotics as they can survive the passage to the gut.
Probiotics are most widely available as a component in yoghurts and fermented dairy drinks.
These are non-digestible food ingredients that can increase the activity of select “good” bacteria.
Prebiotics naturally occur in bananas, asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory and wholegrains like wheat, rye, barley and oats.
These are products that contain both prebiotics and probiotics.
What conditions may probiotics help with?
► Antibiotic associated diarrhea
► Infectious diarrhea
► Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
► Inflammatory bowel disease
► Eczema and other allergies
► Coughs and colds
► Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection – a bacteria found in around half the population, and under certain circumstances can lead to stomach and duodenal ulcers and cancers in the gastric system.
Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet
Watch the sugar levels by referring to the food’s nutritional panel.
Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains.
Made from fermented cabbage and sometimes other vegetables.
Chocolate does not contain probiotics, but it was found to be a very effective carrier for probiotics. Chocolate helps them survive the extreme pHs of the digestive tract to make it to the colon.
Found in ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chlorella, and blue-green algae. While not a probiotic itself, microalgae can act as a prebiotic, which means that it feeds and nourishes the probiotics already in your digestive system.
Miso is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon of miso to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria.
Tempeh is a fermented, probiotic-rich grain made from soybeans.
A form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage. Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your eating plan.
Kombucha is a form of fermented tea.
Prebiotic Foods (Add to your general eating pattern)
- Dandelion Greens
- Different probiotic mixes have different varieties and amounts of each bacteria and therefore different effects.
- People respond differently to probiotics according to their individual make up.
- Generally speaking, you need at least 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU) to have an effect, but the dose depends on the particular probiotic.
- Probiotics don’t hang around in your gut for long. Therefore you have to take them every day to receive benefits.
- The most common side effects of probiotics are gas and bloating, but they don’t last long.