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Turnip the Beet! Nutrition and Wellness

Timely news, information, and innovative ideas to promote health and influence change.

Probiotics for Better Health

Pro= “supporting”…Biotics= “life”

Where do probiotics come from?

The World Health Organization calls probiotics the “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Probiotics are found in the foods we eat; often fermented foods and beverages. Fermenting food is a preservation technique and has been around for a long time. Aside from the foods we eat, probiotics are also becoming more available in supplement form. As with any supplement, however, always talk with your health care team or dietician before taking these. What might work for one person, will not necessarily work for someone else, as different strains have different effects on the body. There are currently no national standards.

You probably are most familiar with yogurt being a probiotic food source. Pasteurization- the heating of milk to destroy certain disease-carrying germs and prevention of souring of milk- also inhibits probiotic growth; therefore, cultured food products that are found in the grocery store (yogurt, kefir, sour cream) contain probiotics that are added AFTER the pasteurization process. Check the label to verify their presence; commonly Lactobacillus, Streptococcus and Bifidobacterium species.

Why are probiotics important?

Probiotics are active, live cultures (bacteria and yeast); the same kind that are found in your gastrointestinal tract. They interfere with colonization of harmful bacteria and help rebalance your intestinal flora. This is important for several reasons. Although research is ongoing, they have been linked to…

  1. Better immunity
  2. Improved digestion
  3. A treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease
  4. Reducing symptoms of lactose intolerance
  5. Reducing risk of certain cancers
  6. Decreasing prevalence of allergies

What are good food sources of probiotics?

Fermented dairy and non-dairy foods: some yogurts, kefir, sour cream, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha and soy beverages. Check the label to make sure it contains "live active cultures", especially on the dairy products. There should be a list of the strains present as well. Remember, if the food has been heated (for pasteurization or canning purposes) it will likely not contain any probiotics. Example: canned sauerkraut.

What are prebiotics?

Think of it as breakfast, lunch and dinner for probiotics. They contain a special carbohydrate (FOS, GOS) which promote growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut.

Food sources include: bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, legumes and whole-wheat foods.

Synbiotics: consuming both prebiotics and probiotics together.

A Word on Supplements:

There are many probiotic supplements now available on the market. Talk with your health care provider before starting any. We now know that some strains work in the upper GI tract and others work in the lower. In other words, if you take something that you don't necessarily need, you could be doing more harm than good. You are better off getting probiotics from food sources which will give you more variety.




University of Maryland Medical Center.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Probiotics in Pediatrics — Using Friendly Bacteria to Treat Health Conditions By Christen C. Cooper, MS, RD Today’s Dietitian Vol. 12 No. 1 P. 24

Parvez, S., Malik, K.A., Ah Kang, S. and Kim, H.-Y. (2006), Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 100: 1171–1185. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02963.x

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