Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Probiotics and Prebiotics

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diagram of a human digestive system

diagram of a human digestive system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics. The primary benefit of probiotics and prebiotics appears to be helping you maintain a healthy digestive system. There is no food that contains both but it is advisable to provide both together in the diet or take a supplement containing both.

One of the best sources of probiotics is yogurt. It has good bacteria like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria,  shown to be able to moderately withstand stomach acid.  Look for “live or active cultures” on the label to be sure your favorite brand of yogurt is a rich source of probiotics.  Other good food sources are sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented, soft cheeses (like Gouda), and even sourdough bread. The common feature of all these foods is fermentation, a process that produces probiotics.  Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes.

Taking probiotics with food or with dairy products may help to lessen the destructive effects of stomach acid  before they reach the small and large intestines. Food and dairy products help to buffer the stomach acid to a reasonable pH so that the highest  possible  number of probiotic organisms can survive.




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