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Things to Know About Probiotics
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Things to Know About Probiotics

By Margaret Furtado, MS RD LDN CYT and Joseph Ewing, RD LDN


Probiotics are a hot topic in the nutrition and with all of the health benefits they provide, they certainly should be. So here are some facts to know about probiotics.


Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms in your gut not to be confused with prebiotics (which are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut). They are also known as friendly or good bacteria.  


Health Benefits.

Our goal is to have more of the friendly bacteria in our gut than the bad bacteria.  The friendly bacteria have been shown to provide a number of health benefits, such as:

-Regulate bowel function

-Improve mineral absorption
-Improve some symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
-Inhibit harmful bacteria growth
-Treat diarrhea
-Improve immune function and prevent infections

-Some studies have shown that probiotics may also lower cholesterol

-Decrease body fat


Probiotics can be found in a number of foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented foods as well as in supplements. 
Manufacturers are responsible for making sure they’re safe before they’re marketed and that any claims made on the label are true. However, there is no guarantee that the types of bacteria listed on a label are effective for the condition you’re taking them for. Health benefits are strain-specific, and not all strains necessarily promote healthful benefits, so you may want to speak with a doctor, and/or a Registered Dietitian who is familiar with probiotics to discuss your options.


As always, let your primary care provider know before you start adding any alternative medicine to your diet.


Visit the culinary section of this issue for delicious recipes that contain probiotics.