3 years ago

Probiotics boost health

Ever wonder how probiotics work? Karen Palmer, RDN, LD,
CDE and North Memorial nutrition educator, explains why these helpful little
organisms are so beneficial to our health.

Probiotics, meaning “for life,”
are the good bacteria in your gut that boost the immune system, help digest
food and synthesize some vitamins and essential fatty acids. When probiotics
are plentiful in your body, it’s harder for illness causing bacteria to gain a
foothold. Select strains of probiotics can reduce lactose intolerance while
other strains have been used to treat irritable bowel syndrome or prevent
allergy symptoms. There are 400 different strains of probiotics and the effects
vary from person to person.

To add more probiotics in your
diet, enjoy fermented dairy foods like yogurt, kefir products and aged cheeses
or non-dairy foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and soy beverages. Be
sure to look for products with “live and active cultures” on the label.

Prebiotics help too

Probiotics feed on prebiotics,
undigested food ingredients that stimulate helpful bacteria growth in
the
digestive system. Prebiotics are found in many natural foods like raw
oats, unrefined wheat, flax, barley and rye as well as legumes,
asparagus, onions, artichokes, garlic, bananas, greens, apples, berries
and
honey.  Prebiotics
enhance absorption of minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium.
Different
strains of prebiotics provide different health benefits. They may also
decrease
cholesterol levels, help with constipation and lower the risk of
osteoporosis
and colon cancer.

The average healthy person has an ample supply of naturally
occurring probiotics to regulate the digestive tract. For help with lactose
intolerance, constipation and other health conditions, add these probiotics to
your diet:

  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus can be found in many yogurts and soft cheeses and they help convert
    lactose and other sugars into lactic acid, which is helpful for people who are
    lactose intolerant.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus, the largest
    group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine, converts lactose into lactic
    acid, which is beneficial for those who are lactose intolerant. It also may
    reduce cholesterol levels and help with diarrhea from antibiotic usage.
  • Bifidobacteria can prevent and treat various gastrointestinal
    disorders and infections like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.

There are higher bacterial counts in probiotic supplements
which can lead to a greater likelihood that some will make it through your
digestive tract alive as well as faster relief from symptoms. Look for at least
four to ten billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs) per dose.

Digestive
health

Enhance your digestive health by following these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water to stay
    hydrated.
  • Limit fat intake, especially
    saturated fats and fried foods, as they’re hard to digest.
  • Eat fiber daily to ensure you will
    be regular every day.
  • Enjoy foods with probiotics to
    reduce the harmful bacteria and prevent infections in the digestive track while
    reducing inflammation.
  • Take your time and chew each bite at
    least 20 times to ensure your stomach properly digests the nutrients.
  • Be active to speed up digestion and
    blood flow while stimulating muscles in the GI tract.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consider taking a probiotic
    supplement. Talk to your Lunds & Byerlys pharmacist or your health care
    provider for more information.

Need more
nutrition help?

North Memorial offers Nutrition Counseling services
to help guide you in achieving a balanced diet.