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Probiotics - The "Good Guys"

Probiotics are a variety of “living organisms” (known as “good bacteria” or “friendly bacteria”) that help maintain the natural balance of microflora in your gut.  The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotics that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, promote a healthy digestive system and support the immune system.  These good guys have gotten quite a bit of hype lately with new products like Good Belly (probiotic juice drink), and a resurgence of old hippie favorites like kefir, homemade yogurt and even kombucha. This is the market responding to the alarming rate of digestive issues in this country. They are caused by stress, a poor diet, certain medical conditions, and most commonly the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, which they do well, YET they also kill all of the probiotics in the gut while doing so – resulting in a probiotic imbalance and most likely digestive and general health challenges.

So how do we find a “friendly bacteria” balance??

First of all, start with a healthy, well balanced diet full of nutrient-rich WHOLE foods (and we are NOT talking about the over-priced grocery store) that are as close to the source as possible! Then you can bolster the good guys by consuming:

1. Probiotic rich diet - Probiotics are non-digestible nutrients that are used as an energy source by certain beneficial bacteria that naturally live in your intestines. Probiotics, also known as fermentable fiber, occur naturally in a variety of foods, especially high-fiber foods, including certain fruits, vegetables and grains. The main food sources of probiotics include: 

  • Artichokes
  • Bananas
  • Barley
  • Berries
  • Chicory
  • Dairy products
  • Flax
  • Garlic
  • Greens, such as dandelion greens, chard and kale
  • Honey
  • Leeks
  • Legumes
  • Onions
  • Wheat and whole grains, such as oatmeal

2. Probiotic  supplements – Start taking a probiotic supplement on a daily basis, but not just any product will do. There are tons on the market and the basic rules are:

  • Find one that is refrigerated (higher potency)
  • Look for a variety of strains from both groups of probiotics -  Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  • Must have an enteric coated capsule – ensures they actually get to your gut

A couple that we recommend are:

Bio-Kult Probiotic - Click here to buy

Nature’s Way Reuteri - Available at Vitamin Cottage

  1. Yogurt
  2. Kefir
  3. Fermented foods  like sour kraut
  4. Miso
  5. Tempeh

Although the scientific research is not super solid (although the qualitative research is), probiotics are also known to:

  • Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
  • Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  • Treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  • Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
  • Prevent and treat eczema in children
  • Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu

For more information about probiotics, check out: http://www.usprobiotics.org/

USprobiotics.org site is a comprehensive, up-to-date resource on probiotic reseach and development and the consumer health benefits of probiotics in the United States as well as a reference for global probiotic activities.

Reader Comments (1)

That's a nice list! I didn't know banana, garlic and onions were rich in probiotics. the foods that I see mentioned in articles are usually yogurt and sauerkraut. I've also read that kimchi is another good source of probiotics :)

as for yogurt, personally I like the homemade ones. This video I think has a good explanation why homemade yogurt or kefir is better than the ones at the stores : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neHbUI2JiPw

August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM. Hopson

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