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Probiotics: A Billion Good Bugs

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

who knew we needed bugs Report
CECTARR
Take refrigerated supplements everyday and they really help. Do not take these at the same time of day as an antibiotic. Per the doctor they would work against each other Report
I'm allergic to dairy products. It's one of the top eight most common food allergies. The most common one! So some alternatives to dairy mentioned in an article about probiotics would be helpful. I feel that this is really incomplete, and I'd give it a C- if I were a teacher. Report
Great insight to little known facts. Report
I always take something that has probiotic in them. If I don't my stomach and gut hurts. Report
Confirmation! Report
A good probiotic is part of my daily recovery regimen. I figured it couldn't hurt, and now I know. Report
Great article. It would be good to update it now that it's 2019. There are several wonderful probiotics in fermented foods, such as fermented sauerkraut. Dairy is not the only source. Thanks for writing about the benefits! Report
Thanks for the information. Report
KATHERINEVB
Any comments about "Probiotic Gummies"? Report
Probiotic-prebiot
ic they all help. Report
ELRIDDICK
Thanks for sharing Report
what is the difference to your health between pro- and pre-biotics? Is one better than the other? Report
Good article. Report
Great, thanks for sharing! Report
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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.