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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are Probiotics Good for You?

One can hardly watch any TV without seeing a commercial for probiotics or a yogurt touting the benefits of probiotics. Do you need probiotics? Is there anything to the hype in these commercials? What are probiotics anyway?

  • What are probiotics? Basically, probiotics are foods that provide "good" bacteria. We have huge colonies of bacteria living in our intestines and we want to populate these bacteria with "good" for us bacteria. Probiotics include many foods, not just yogurt. There is fermented milk, soy beverages, some juices with probiotics and pills providing the "good" bacteria. Some of these foods have the bacteria in them naturally and some have the bacteria added in processing. Probiotics are considered food and not a medicine but there are many claims to beneficial health effects from eating probiotics. The Federal Trade Commission regulates and oversees these health claims.
  • What are the "good" bacteria?
    Two of the most common seen in foods are Lactobacillus and Bifdobacterium. Thus, if look at a package of yogurt you might see, Lactobacillus
    acidophilus or Lactobacillus reuteri.
  • Why should I take probiotics? There are times when your body loses some good bacteria such as when you are taking antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the harmful bacteria making you sick but also kill the good bacteria in your intestines.
  • What are the health benefits of probiotics? Nothing has apparently been proven but many studies have been done that at least suggest health benefits of probiotics.
    • GI tract – Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diarrhea, Ulcerative colitis have shown improvement with the use of probiotics.
    • Immune System – a number of studies have shown that probiotics can help reduce upper respiratory tract infections. It may prevent or reduce the severity of upper respiratory infections such as colds or flu.
    • Eczema in children – some studies indicate that probiotics may help prevent eczema and is helpful in treating eczema in children.
  • Are probiotics safe to take?
    Probiotics provide bacteria similar to what is already in your body. Although they have been used for a long time throughout history, WebMD notes that more information is needed on the use of probiotics in children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. The Mayo Clinic notes, "Probiotics are generally considered safe." (
  • Does yogurt with probiotics offer other benefits? Yes, yogurt provides calcium, and most yogurts are fortified with vitamins A and D. A cup of yogurt essentially provides the same nutrients as a glass of milk with added benefit of probiotics.








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