Live microorganism, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)
Probiotics are Hot! But Why All the Excitement?.
Our gut or digestive tract is full of bacteria and that’s normal. Some promote health and some make you ill. The goal is not to eliminate all the bad bacteria – it is to maintain the optimal balance. Probiotics help to maintain the balance.
The challenge of maintaining balance:
“It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.
When the digestive tract is healthy, it filters out and eliminates things that can damage it, such as harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals, and other waste products. On the flip side, it takes in the things that our body needs (nutrients from food and water) and absorbs and helps deliver them to the cells where they are needed.” (The Truth about Probiotics)
The Highlights of Using Probiotics
- There are 100’s of different types of bacteria in the gut, but only lactobacillus and bifidobacteria have been studied in humans.
- Lactobacillus are in the digestive, urinary and genital systems. They are in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. They help digestion and boost immunity and even ward off allergies and colds.
- Bidfidobacteria help with irritable bowl syndrome, dental cavities, improve blood lipids and glucose tolerance. The last two are especially important in an era where diabetes and pre-diabetes are epidemic.
- Probiotics are not regulated or even certified to be beneficial. This means that foods might be advertised to contain probiotics, but may or may not contain them in a meaningful amount. This also applies to supplements.
- Prebiotics are different from probiotics. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics. Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes.
- Probiotics need to be alive to be effective. This means that if you cook with yogurt or sauerkraut you kill the bacteria. Many commercial products like sauerkraut and kimchi have been pasteurized. This process kills the good bacteria.
Checkout this Slideshow of 12 probiotic foods and the way each promotes health.
This primer is based on several sources: