There’s been a lot of buzz about probiotics lately, and they seem to be showing up everywhere whether it’s in supplements, yogurt, smoothies or even ice cream! So what’s the big benefit and what do you need to know about them? We put together a question-and-answer guide to give you the 411 on probiotics!
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, most of which are similar to the healthy flora that we naturally have in our guts. Probiotics are naturally found in some foods like yogurt and kefir, along with other foods that are fermented such as miso, tempeh and sauerkraut. You can also buy probiotic supplements.
Why Are Probiotics Helpful?
Although there isn’t a lot of concrete research on this, doctors believe that having the right — or wrong — balance of bacteria in your stomach may play a role in digestive issues, obesity, immunity, eczema, and possibly even help with common childhood ailments such as strep throat, ear infections, colds and diarrhea, along with helping with food allergies.
Do I Need More Probiotics in My Diet?
While only a medical professional or registered dietitian can give you specific and individual dietary advice, it seems that quite a few people do benefit from eating more foods with probiotics or taking supplements and, for the most part, with very few side effects since they are naturally occurring in our diets. However, WebMD warns that probiotic supplements may be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems or serious illnesses. Also, beware that just like other supplements, the FDA does not regulate probiotics.
When buying any food or supplement with probiotics it’s important to buy from a brand and a source that you know and trust. WebMD says that the effective “dose” of bacteria can vary widely, from as little as 50 million to as many as 1 trillion live cells per dose. On a label, look for bacterias by these names, which have been shown to be healthy for most adults: Lactobacillus GG, Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus. Also look for the term “live active culture” on the package, and follow expiration dates.
Will Probiotics Help Me Lose Weight?
While a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been proven by research yet, a promising study in 2008 from Stanford University found that taking a probiotic pill a day helped boost weight loss in patients undergoing gastric-bypass surgery. Only time — and more research — will tell, but it’s promising!
Do you take probiotics? What’s been your experience with this healthy bacteria?
June 13th, 2011