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Probiotics: for your gut and much more

Joseph Buchman, Dietetic Intern Bay Pines Health Care System


 

Whether it be on the news, in magazines, or overheard in the grocery store check-out line, it is likely you have heard about probiotics recently. Lately it seems everyone is excited about the many benefits of consuming probiotic-rich yogurts and fermented beverages, but what is all the fuss about? Well, let’s break it down and talk about why probiotics may be good for your health and how you can get them in your diet

The Gut Microbiome

What is happening in your gut can impact much more than simply your “regularity.” The gut microbiome is simply the collective group of microbes (bacteria) which are living in your intestines. The gut microbiome has recently been linked to many different areas of health and disease—and more findings are being made routinely. Depending upon the balance of “good” bacteria versus “bad” bacteria in your gut, you may be at higher or lower risk for the development of different health conditions.

Probiotics & Food

From a diet standpoint, probiotics are the beneficial bacteria or living organisms in the food you eat. Incredibly, these bacteria in your diet can change the entire makeup of the bacteria living within your gut. Adequate probiotic consumption may be linked to benefits in treating or managing:

  • constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • diverticular disease
  • high cholesterol
  • overweight/obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • upper respiratory tract infections

For more information on probiotics and health, read the following by Dr. Dahl here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FS/FS28600.pdf

To increase probiotic intake in your diet, reach for the fermented dairy products. Yogurt, kefir drinks, and aged cheeses all contain bacteria which may be beneficial to your health. However, if you are not a fan of dairy, there are many non-dairy foods which can provide you with similar healthy bacteria. Many fermented foods and beverages, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kombucha are loaded with probiotics.

Probiotics from Supplements?

As with many supplements available on the market, probiotic supplements can be outrageously expensive. In addition to the inflated price tag, some probiotic supplements have drastically fewer living organisms at the time of consumption than what is claimed on their labels. As with most supplements, they may not be worth your money and it is encouraged that you get your daily probiotics through real food. If you are interested in learning more about how various probiotic supplements stack up, read the data available from independent testers, such as https://www.consumerlab.com/