What are Probiotics?

What are probiotics

What are probiotics?

In simple terms, probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in certain foods and supplements and that both help with digestion and benefit your health in other ways.

You probably know that there are good or “friendly” bacteria as well as bad bacteria or “pathogens” in your body.  It is the pathogens that make you sick.

When these pathogens cause symptoms of illness, you take antibiotics to kill them off. Unfortunately, at the same time, the friendly bacteria in your system are also destroyed and this causes diarrhea and may potentially disrupt your immune function.

This is why your physician may suggest that you eat yogurt with live cultures or other probiotic foods, or that you take a probiotic supplement to restore the good bacteria in your digestive tract.

Even if you aren’t having any symptoms of illness, probiotics keep the population of the good bacteria at an optimal level to help prevent the possibility of the bad guys taking over the terrain of your lower digestive tract. In this way, you will be more resistant to infection and illness.

Interesting fact about what are probiotics:  The name gives you a clue. If you break down the word, “pro” means “for” and “bios” means “life.”  In other words, probiotics are for your life!

Probiotics have been shown to be effective in the treatment of other digestive disorders such as IBS, ulcerative colitis and lactose intolerance. Probiotics may also help prevent allergies, enhance your immune function, improve your blood pressure and protect you against colon cancer.

In addition, the friendly bacteria in your gut are involved in the production of certain vitamins including Vitamin B12, Folate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid and Vitamin K.

live cultures

What food have probiotics?

Probiotic foods are fermented foods such as yogurt (make sure it has live cultures), sauerkraut, miso, some soft cheeses like Gouda, kefir, natural pickles that do not have vinegar and tempeh.  You can also take a supplement of probiotics, but be sure to check expiration date and keep the bottle in a cool place.

Since probiotics only remain in the digestive tract temporarily, they need to be replenished on a regular basis.

What about PREbiotics?

You may have heard about something called "prebiotics" as opposed to probiotics.  These are substance found in food, such as fibers, that are not digested by the body but instead are used as food for the good bacteria in your GI tract.  Some sources of prebiotics are less ripe bananas, asparagus, oatmeal and legumes. 

Some health experts say that if you eat your pasta al dente or while it is still firm, some of the starch will remain undigested and become a prebiotic.

Interesting Fact about what are probiotics:  Scientists are finding out more and more about the human microbiome (all the microbes inside your GI Tract) and its effect on your health.   The healthier your microbiome—the healthier you are!

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