Submitted by Jeremy Greenhaus
Edited by Marcia Bristow MS RDN CSSD CD
What are probiotics anyway?
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that make their home inside the human gut. They eat and grow off of dietary fiber that we consume and can have real benefits for the person they live inside.1 Bacteria are everywhere, and it is a common assumption that all bacteria are bad. While some unwanted types of bacteria do try to enter and grow in our bodies, there are many good bacteria that live harmoniously inside of us.
Probiotics may offer several potential benefits for your health including promoting healthy digestion, boosting your immune system, and helping to relieve and manage gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and conditions.
Food sources of probiotics…
Foods to add to your diet that are good sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as kimchi and tempeh, and dairy products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese.2
Some people choose to use a supplement...
A probiotic supplement may be the only way to get the necessary amount of bacteria to manage a number of symptoms and illnesses. The most effective dosage for probiotic supplements is still unclear. Keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated and ingredients and amounts on the label may not match what is in the product.3
When supplements might be useful…
A probiotic supplement may help to manage conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis. Additionally, they may also help relieve symptoms from antibiotic-related diarrhea and similar gastrointestinal issues from viral infections seen in children.4
So what does this mean for you?
If you think probiotics may benefit you, seek advice from your healthcare provider before taking a supplement as there may be risk for some people.2 Currently, more research is needed to determine whether probiotics can offer the potential benefits that are often claimed.2 Most healthy people do not need to take a supplement, but instead should focus on incorporating probiotic rich foods into their diet to support healthy immune and digestive function by discouraging the growth of unwanted bacteria.
- Are probiotics right for you?Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.2011;29(9):4-5.https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/docview/906040336?accountid=14679. Accessed January 16, 2017.
2. Douglas, Sanders. Probiotics and prebiotics in dietetics practice.Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(3):510-521. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.12.009
3.Probiotics: Know what works, what doesn’t. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
2013;31(2):6.https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/docview/1365656271?accountid=14679. Accessed January 16, 2017.
4. Williams N. Probiotics. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2010;67(6):449-458. DOI: 10.2146/ajhp090168.
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