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
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
enhance absorption of minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium.
strains of prebiotics provide different health benefits. They may also
cholesterol levels, help with constipation and lower the risk of
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
- 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
- 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.
Enhance your digestive health by following these tips:
- Drink plenty of water to stay
- 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
- 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.
North Memorial offers Nutrition Counseling services
to help guide you in achieving a balanced diet.