Probiotics – Good Guys in the Bacteria World

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Probiotics – Good Guys in the Bacteria World

Probiotic Foods
Posted by:
Mary Ann O'Dell, MS, RDN

Bad germs and bacteria are everywhere – E.coli, Salmonella, S. pneumoniae. To fight these bad bugs, you need good bugs! Consuming beneficial friendly bacteria, or probiotics, is good for you. In fact, the name “probiotic” comes from the Greek and means “for life.” L. acidophilus, a well-known probiotic, is just one of more than 400 species of bacteria that live in the human gastrointestinal tract.

Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics help the body in numerous ways, including:

  • Keeping bad bacteria and yeast in check.  If probiotics decline, bad bacteria and yeast can quickly flourish and spill out of the gut. In women, probiotics can help maintain a balance of microflora that can stave off yeast infection and even urinary tract infection.
  • Supporting a healthy intestinal wall.  Probiotics help keep the lining clean and help control inflammation. This function also helps keep pathogenic bacteria from entering the blood stream.
  • Enhancing absorption of certain nutrients. Maintaining a balance of good bacteria in the gut can help improve and support absorption of certain nutrients.
  • Promoting immunity. Probiotics are the main immune substances in the digestive tract. They can support the function of immune system white blood cells.
  • Promote regularity. Probiotics encourage balance in the intestinal tract, which supports overall regularity. This action can also help reduce the negative intestinal effects of antibiotics.
  • Support mood health and brain function. Since scientists have discovered the “second brain” - neurons in the intestinal tract that communicate like neurons in the brain - there has been more focus on the gut-brain connection. Controlling inflammation and supplementing with probiotics may result in more GI balance and improvement in brain function and a potential reduction in symptoms of mild depression and brain fog.

Sources of Probiotics

To build up and maintain probiotics in the body, it is important to include fermented foods in the diet such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. There are also excellent powerful probiotic supplements available that are designed to get higher levels of probiotics into the gut, with specific formulas for infants to seniors and everyone in between.