Would You Like a Dash of Probiotics with Your Meal?
September 25, 2013

Would You Like A Dash Of Probiotics With Your Meal?

Recently I have been reading up on probiotics: what they are, how they work, where to get more of them, and what they may be able to treat. I have long eaten yogurt and fermented veggies specifically for the probiotics, but I wanted to gain a more in-depth understanding of probiotics and their uses. And I thought maybe you, dear reader, would also like to know more. So here goes:

What are probiotics?

Well, according to Medical News Today, “Probiotics are microorganisms that offer some form of health benefit to the host – they can be found in various different foods. Probiotics are believed to play very important roles in regulating proper intestinal function and digestion by balancing intestinal microflora.” In short, probiotics are good bacteria we need for a healthy body.

How do probiotics work?

Our systems that need probiotics (like our stomachs and gastrointestinal tracts) have a complicated ecosystem of bacteria, so when that bacteria is off, our bodies are off and more susceptible to infection. As WebMD explains, “Researchers believe that some digestive disorders happen when the balance of friendly bacteria in the intestines becomes disturbed.  This can happen after an infection or after taking antibiotics. Intestinal problems can also arise when the lining of the intestines is damaged. Taking probiotics may help.” Taking probiotics helps to get the balance back on track. These good bacteria fight off the bad ones so that our systems work as they should.

Where do I get more of them?

Many foods naturally have probiotics in them. As redOrbit explains, a trip down the local grocery store’s dairy isle will provide a surfeit of options particularly with yogurt, soft cheese, and cottage cheese. Make sure the products have as part of their ingredients probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. Fermented foods like miso soup, kimchi, pickles (fermented not vinegar), sauerkraut, and others also have probiotics. Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide says that some beverages are laced with probiotics as well.

What might could maybe probiotics treat? 

So the “might could maybe” above is simply because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not officially claimed that probiotics treat anything, and studies are still ongoing, but it looks like the truth of the matter is probiotics are helpful for health. WebMD has a comprehensive list of illnesses, diseases, and ailments that probiotics are most effective at helping, which includes,

  • Treating childhood diarrhea
  • Treating ulcerative colitis
  • Treating necrotizing enterocolitis, a type of infection and inflammation of the intestines mostly seen in infants
  • Preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea
  • Preventing pouchitis, an inflammation of the intestines that can follow intestinal surgery
  • Treating and preventing eczema associated with cow’s milk allergy
  • Helping the immune system
  • Treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Treating vaginitis
  • Treating diarrhea caused by C. difficile bacteria
  • Treating Crohn’s disease

All of these were found in a 2011 Yale University review of research on probiotics.

Naturally, before making any change, talk to your doctor. She will know what is best. And if you do not like what she says, get a second opinion. For what it is worth, I have experienced many of the benefits of probiotics. Plus, I get my probiotics through yogurt (plain or greek), so I also enjoy the added protein. And I have found that most foods with probiotics, like those discussed above, just taste plain delicious. If nothing else, eat them for that reason.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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