Nutrition Articles

Probiotics: A Billion Good Bugs

Friendly Bacteria for Your Digestive System

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Did you know that your digestive tract contains more than 400 types of “friendly” bacteria? These little guys, commonly referred to as probiotics (which means "pro-life"), help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. That’s right! Probiotics are live bacteria with clinically-documented health benefits.

Health Benefits
It appears that when the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems greatly benefit as well. Probiotics may:
  • Protect against infection
  • Enhance and boost the immune system
  • Promote and improve digestive health
  • Alleviate diarrhea caused by antibiotic treatments
  • Promote urinary and genital health
  • Assist in the management of inflammation
  • Help alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance
  • Improve some types of eczema in infants and children
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Decrease the risk of certain cancers
It is important to note that each type of friendly bacteria has a specific health benefit to the body. With over 400 different types of probiotics identified, researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • ETHELMERZ
    If you take certain meds, check with a doctor before eating this stuff, it can change the way your body uses the meds, or the body won't be able to use the meds properly because you gut is making the med useless..........
    ..be warned!! Don't just watch the cutesy ads and buy anything and swallow it down, isn't good for everyone at all. - 2/24/2014 9:46:54 PM
  • Thank you for making my day and making me smile. Just the thought of that little spider sitting down next to Little Miss Muffet with hopes to share her curds and whey....what a visual!!!
    - 1/5/2014 8:46:39 AM
  • JEANGAIJIN
    I would didn't real all the comments, so maybe this was addressed before, but there are many, many other probiotic-contain
    ing foods other than yogurt! Fermentation and pickling were worldwide methods of food preservation, and they still work great to produce very healthy, yummy food that's loaded with probiotics. In many cases, the fermentation process also improves the nutrient content of food and makes it more accessible. In addition, the lactic acid produced by the fermentation keeps bad bacteria from growing, so it's a very safe way to prepare food at home. Properly fermented food will keep for months.

    Think about sauerkraut, home-made pickles, kombucha, kimchi... the list is very long! I've been doing this for about the last year, making kombucha, kimchi, kefir, home-made sauerkraut at home in my kitchen. My digestion is better and so is my energy level! It's so much cheaper and easier to make this stuff at home than to buy it in the store, and it's of course possible to control exactly what's in it.
    For example, a bottle of kombucha (a probiotic fermented tea drink) is $3.99 for a 16-oz bottle; I can make a gallon at home in about 4 days for the cost of one cup of sugar and 5 tea bags!

    I urge anyone who's interested to check out resources on the web about this; two good sites are culturedfoodlife.
    com and culturesforhealth
    .com. There are also tons of YouTube videos out there with recipes and how-to tips. Feel free to message me if you want more info! - 1/3/2014 2:04:22 PM
  • I always figured little miss Muffett was eating cottage cheese...

    I've been using probiotics for a while now, sometimes by eating yogurt, sometimes by taking wafers and sometimes by taking probiotic gummies. The labels of the pills and gummies say that their probiotics survive the stomach acids better than the probiotics in yogurt, but I don't know...

    In any case, I think changing it up a bit is a good thing. I LOVE the flavor of plain, non-fat yogurt mixed with a little bit of fruit, and the wafers are kind of hard to take. - 1/2/2014 9:16:10 AM
  • JAISA311
    If you have IBS you maybe lactose intolerant so be sure your probiotic capsule is dairy free. It should say it on the bottle. - 9/24/2013 7:26:49 PM
  • I love yogurt with fruit. Its great. - 7/27/2013 6:22:25 PM
  • MELODY1217
    I have horrific IBS and finally capitulated to my mom's insistance that I try a Probiotic supplement. I can honestly tell you that i was in excruciating PAIN for 2 weeks. I have never had gas like that before or felt that much intestinal pain for a long time. And I know intestinal pain. All I can say is that I don't think my digestive tract ever fully recovered from that experiment a year ago and I don't think I'll ever try it again. - 12/22/2011 11:26:05 AM
  • @ILOVEBIRDEEZ: What is the source for your assertion that casein protein, occuring naturally in dairy (milk, cheese, etc) is a carcinogen? - 12/22/2011 7:01:10 AM
  • ELLSJO
    i looked at the low fat yogert options and nearly eveery one had nearly the same calories as the full fat option, yes there was less fat but a lot more sugar. From now on I'm sticking to full fat but eating a bit less of it. Ellsjo - 10/13/2011 10:42:48 AM
  • I am trying and trying to like Greek Yogurt for the protein value, but it just seems that I don't. (And I have never been a picky eater)
    It seems everyone on the planet but me likes it...tastes like sour cream to me. This is funny, because do love sour cream! :0)
    I do like to use it for in place of sour cream when making dips for veggies! - 9/8/2011 1:35:14 PM
  • ILOVEBIRDEEZ
    Probiotics are a good thing, of course, but getting them by eating dairy foods may not be. There is a animal-product protein called casein, and that is a carcinogen. - 9/7/2011 10:32:42 PM
  • I bought some Greek yoghurt at Safeway a while back and my daughter ate all of it before i got to it. - 9/7/2011 8:15:13 PM
  • i take a pribotics supplement, as i cannot stand any type of yogurt. in fact the only dairy product i can tolerate is butter... the supplements may not be the best but since i have started taking them my digestive system is working better, and i fell better. - 9/7/2011 8:42:28 AM
  • One smart tip is to eat yogurt instead of ice-cream. It's cold and if you add some fruit it's even better than ice-cream and of course much much healthier! - 9/7/2011 6:17:53 AM
  • TONYD55
    I love yogurt and have it often, but watch the sugar. Even the popular well known brands have high sugar content. I eat no sugar added from Publix. - 9/7/2011 6:11:15 AM

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