What Are Probiotics?

Most of us have heard that probiotics are “good” for us. But why? And what are the best sources?

Down through the years, people around the world have used fermented foods to promote their health. Whether it’s fermented vegetables, fermented yogurt or kefir, it’s been known for centuries that good bacteria is, well, good for us!

So, you might be wondering just why probiotics are so vital to your health.

Well, let me tell you a little miracle that happens to babies at birth.

During a normal delivery on the way down the birth canal, babies get their very first does of bacteria from their mother. This event starts the colonization in the infant’s gut with good bacteria.

As a side note, research shows that many c-section infants have less-than-optimal health after birth, and this is more than likely because they are not exposed to the mother’s healthy bacteria in the birth canal.

You see, having that good bacteria in the gut is so important, that babies start getting prepared for their earliest moments on the outside, and that proves just how incredibly important probiotics are to us throughout our life.

What Are The Benefits Of Probiotics

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There are so many benefits of maintaining a healthy intestinal tract, but some of these include:

  • Diarrhea prevention and treatment
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Helping relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Reducing the side-effects of antibiotics

It’s hardly surprising that improving your gut health can have a profound effect on your overall health, when you consider this fact — our GI tract houses the bulk of our immune system, that is, around 70 to 80 percent of it.

Is Yogurt Really A Source of Probiotics?

Yogurt is probably the most well-known source of probiotics, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Other fermented foods including miso, fortified soy and juice drinks, fermented milk, fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi (check labelling for active cultures), raw or unpasteurized yogurt, and supplements, are also a source of probiotics.

But, which is best?

For a probiotic to be beneficial, it must be capable of reaching and colonizing the intestinal tract. And, this requirement disqualifies many of the products we find on the market these days.

If yogurt is your source of friendly bacteria, you need to make sure you choose a good quality brand, containing lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium at the very minimum. You also need to be taking it once each day.

These two bacteria, are strong enough to survive your stomach acids, and therefore they can reach your intestines and get to work.

If the probiotics cannot reach your intestines, they will be of no effect, and are simply a waste of your money.

The problem with many of the dairy products, such as yogurts and kefir, it that some are unlikely to contain sizable quantities of live bacteria, due to the heat and chemicals used during food processing.

For this reason, it is important to buy dairy products which state the product actually “contains live cultures,” or “contains active cultures,” on the packaging.

What About Probiotic Supplements?

If your general health is pretty good, you probably do not need to take a probiotic supplement. Simply consuming a good quality active yogurt, for example, every day will be adequate to keep your gut healthy.

But, if you have a diagnosed gut problem, it is more likely that you will require a larger dose of probiotics, in the form of a probiotic supplement. This will help to regulate your gut health much more quickly and effectively.

Again, it is important that your supplement contains at least lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium, and that you store them correctly, to help extend their lifespan.

Choose Supplements Wisely

Never be fooled by very low-priced supplements. Many are actually made from cheap and unhealthy synthetic ingredients.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, you also need to be wary of extremely expensive supplements. In some cases, they are no better than a cheaper brand, and you are simply paying through the nose for marketing hyperbole.

The best way to know what you are buying, is to check the ingredients label, and compare across a couple of products for similarities and differences.

How To Choose The Best Probiotic

  • Look for scientifically proven probiotics, i.e. your product has been through some testing to prove it does what the manufacturers claim it does. If you are unsure, you can call their helpline number, or look the product up online.
  • In one UK study, from the Royal Free Hospital in London, 39 products were tested against a specific criteria. Researchers found that only Multibionta satisfied all six of their criteria points.
  • Take care with probiotic drinks, which often have additives to make them taste better, usually sugar. This is problematic, since yeasts in particular tend to thrive on sugar. Yakult, for example, contains 18g of sugar per 100g. Compare that to 10g of sugar per 100g in a can of Coca-Cola.
  • Add more fermented foods to your diet, like kefir, sauerkraut, and unsweetened yogurt — just make sure they do actually contain active bacteria.
  • If you decide to take a probiotic supplement, go for one that contains at least the 5-10 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) per serving of bacteria. This is the amount generally recommended by physicians. Your supplement should be well packaged (bacteria are sensitive to light, heat and moisture), so it is best of they are kept refrigerated, and in an opaque container.

Do you take foods containing probiotics, or a probiotic supplement? Have you noticed an improvement in your health as a result?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan@Paleo Recipe August 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I have been reading a lot about probiotics lately – they are fairly widely prescribed by us folks in the paleo/primal nutrition industry. I love that they help strengthen and balance out your systems and hormones. Something we all need for optimum health, weight, and fitness.

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Melanie August 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

It’s an interesting topic. I will check out some of your recipes, too :-)

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Taleen August 26, 2011 at 7:23 am

Great article, as I admittedly don’t much about probiotics… only the bare minimum. This was great info for me. I am also delighted to see kimchi represented up there! I WONDERED why Korean’s claimed that it has properties to prevent bowel cancer! There you go now! It is part of my daily diet :)

P.S. I LOVE the new look for your website! Always nice to jig things up a bit ;) The quote is fantastic too!

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Melanie September 6, 2011 at 5:36 pm

That’s great, Taleen. I remember looking up a recipe for kimchi, but I’ve never actually made it. I suppose you can buy it already made in Korea?

Thanks about the website design. Armen is trying a few things out at the minute, to try to make the site easier to navigate. I did like the last design, but I’m getting used to this one.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00cLBq5HgZ0 November 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Tips and Tricks for Losing Weight Quickly

Most people want to lose weight because they want to look better, but there are other conditions that are important, too.

You can become much more motivated to do this when you can see the results.

You really never should drop the pounds too quickly, but you can
lose more safely in most cases. There are quack diets out there that
cause you to lose water weight and they’re not to be bothered with
because it’s not permanent. The following tips are designed to let you
learn what is realistic and possible with reasonably quick weight loss.

Eat foods that are mostly water, particularly if you feel like a
snack. Lettuce, watermelon, tomatoes, etc are
all examples of foods that are more water than
they are anything else. It also means that you can still feel like you
are eating and getting full while consuming far less calories than you
would during snacks and mealtimes otherwise. You’ll be eating some superfoods if you do
this, and that equates to vital micronutrients. Still drink water because it’s
good for you, but supplement that with eating these types of foods.

The body needs fiber to stay healthy, and you’re probably getting a fair amount
of it anyway, but you should increase your fiber intake.
When you are having daily bowel movements,
then that will actually help you have more energy.
From more energy to higher metabolic levels, and more, fiber needs to be in your daily diet.
You can and should eat fiber at each meal
and you can even get it from healthy snacks. Once you have been eating more fiber for
a while, then that will give the benefits time to kick in.

The only good snacks are healthy snacks, and that
almost always means no processed foods. If you watch TV,
then instead of eating junk foods just eat something that’s good for you.
Another really great snack iis the protein bars that weight lifters like to
eat, and they are very good sources of protein.
An excellent combination is drinking water and a protein bar –
and that will really fill you up. Losing weight fast does not have
to be a dangerous proposition. Think about evergreen weight loss methods because
they are the ones that have always worked well.

Use these healthy approaches to rapid weight loss to help you reach your
weight loss goals. You have to maintain motivation and
be dedicated to what you’re doing.

Great and Healthy Ways to Lose Weight Quickly

Most people want to lose weight because they want to look better, but there are other conditions that are important, too.

If you make the attempt in the old fashioned way, it takes much longer and let’s face it not
everybody wants to wwait that long. The one thing to be avoided is losing serious amounts of weight very fast because that’s not good for your health.
And you won’t drop weight overnight, but you should see some improvement.
Losing weight in an accelerated fashion is the ideal way to get it done.

Most of what’s on the market for beverages has a lot of calories in it, so switch over to water.
Any kind of soda, even diet, is very unhealthy for reasons
aside from all the extra calories you get from them.

Nothing wrong with tea but the trick there is to not add any sugar to it.

So simply by substituting water for the other things you’ve been drinking, you can
cut hundreds of calories out of your diet every day.
If you keep up your regular level of exercise, you’ll burn through
your fat more quickly because you’ll have
fewer calories to burn before you start to shed pounds.

Fiber is great for a lot of reasons, and there are many good sources of it that taste good.

When you are having daily bowel movements, then that will actually
help you have more energy. When you are cleaned out in your digestive tract,
you’ll be able to absorb nutrients much better. A great source
of fiber is bran, so eat a cereal that contains bran and make sure you take in lots of fruits and vegetables.
Fiber needs to be a part of your diet, so learn about all the
possible ways to get it and then start eating it every day.

Eat foods that will help you reduce your bloating. While this is not an weight
problem, you’ll feel better if you can make it go away. It’s best to do research on foods that
cause bloating as well as those that can get rid of it.
You never know how this will impact with weight loss, but if it’s water related then it will
have an impact. Understand that this is not losing fat, bbut it’s certainly related
to what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you want to lose weight fast, then you can do that without too much trouble.
The authoritative sites provide very helpful related information and are worth reading.

So just use a healthy and common sense attitude so you
stay healthy.

Reply

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