Probiotics are good for your health

Jennifer GiffuneWhat does your gut intuition tell you about bacteria? That it is harmful and should be avoided at all costs? That bacteria exposure means you will become ill? Would you be surprised to learn that the human body hosts trillions of bacteria? We have more bacteria in our bodies than we do cells. What you may not realize is that there are both good and bad bacteria. Probiotic is a fancy name for good bacteria. Probiotics have a proven track record for making people healthier. So, its time to learn more about good bacteria and how to get some on the menu.
Scientists have been studying Probiotics for quite some time. We know that probiotics can help treat a host of medical conditions, such as:
• Blood Sugar Control
• Diarrhea
• Immune system
• Inflammation
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Lactose Intolerance
• Obesity
• Restoring good bacteria after taking antibiotics
Additionally, research is ongoing to evaluate the positive impact of probiotics on other health conditions such as oral health and blood pressure control. The preliminary reports are good, so it is recommended that you expose yourself regularly to these helpful bacteria in order to reap the benefits.
There is not one universal bacteria colony that provides all the health benefits. The most common probiotics are bifidobacteri, lactic acid bacteria, dairy propionbacteria, and yeast. These and other helpful bacteria can be found in pills and foods. Probiotics are considered safe to consume by the FDA (which regulates them as food, not medication). There are only minor side effects reported about probiotics such as gassiness, bloating and mild diarrhea. These side effects often don’t last longer than a few days after you start bumping up your good bacteria. On occasion, some people report allergic reactions to probiotics, so if you suspect a problem stop consuming them and talk to your PCP.
In order to get probiotic colonies onto the shelves, the bacteria must be grown. There are two ways to do this – one is to place bacteria in dairy and allow it to ferment. The other option is to grow probiotics in an industrial medium, then remove the colonies, dry them out and put them in food products or pills. Freeze drying is the safest way to dry the bacteria without killing them. Once packaged, the colonies of bacteria risk damage due to poor storage conditions. As you are trying to choose a probiotic pick one with live & active cultures that have been freeze dried. Ideally, the container you are holding is from a refrigerated case.
There are many delicious foods that are excellent sources of healthy bacteria. By choosing probiotic rich foods, not only do you get the good bacteria but you also get additional nutrients such as fuel (protein, carbohydrate and fat) and vitamins & minerals. There are many foods that have probiotics, namely:
• Acidophilus Milk
• Buttermilk
• Fermented Cabbage such as Sauerkraut Kimchi, Curtido, Choucroute (buy unpasteurized type from the refrigerator case)
• Fermented soft cheeses such as Cheddar, Cottage Cheese, Gouda, Swiss & Parmesan
• Kefir (fermented yogurt-like drink)
• Kombucha (fermented tea)
• Lebne (spreadable yogurt cheese)
• Miso Soup
• Pickled foods (from a brine or salt pickling, not vinegar)
• Sourdough Bread
• Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
• Yogurt
Manufacturers are getting smart, knowing that the public is becoming educated about good bacteria. So, they are adding probiotics to all types of foods. Be careful! Check the nutrition fact label for sodium benzoate; it destroys good bacteria. And make sure the label reports live and active cultures.
You can also make a difference. Boost the impact of probiotics by providing fuel to expand colonies. Fuel sources are known as prebiotics. By eating the prebiotics, you give your helpful bacteria colonies the best chance to thrive in your body. As you eat good bacteria, think of ways to add one of these great tasting prebiotics to your plate – asparagus, bananas, chicory root, honey, inulin, leeks, legumes, Jerusalem artichokes, maple syrup, oatmeal, onion and root vegetables.
It really is hard to believe that we have so much bacteria living both inside and outside of our bodies. Take advantage of the situation and be a good host. Keep choosing foods that have good bacteria as well as provide fuel, all the while avoiding those things that can destroy them. The end result? Some great meals and a healthier body, which is not a bad way to live.
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. On the last Wednesday of each month, Jennifer can be heard on 89.5 WSKB radio on the “Wake up Wednesday Morning” Show. To make an appointment with Jennifer at Mercy Medical Group, call 786-1500.

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