The Bacteria Buzz
Eat Your Bacteria
Probiotics are known as the "friendly bacteria" found in fermented dairy products such as yogurt. Probiotics help the body's natural gut flora to reestablish itself. Our stomach areas contain bacteria, which live inside our guts and assist with digestion and other gastric functions. These internal bacteria are very important components of our digestive system. When we take antibiotics or other drugs, consume excessive alcohol, and experience stress or disease, our internal bacteria can be depleted or harmed. By consuming products that contain probiotics, we can assist in keeping our natural flora functioning. Probiotics help improve the balance of healthy bacteria.
Examples of specific probiotics can be found in products such as yogurt. When yogurt states that it contains L. acidophilus, this is a probiotic. Other probiotics can be found in other fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.
PrebioticsPrebiotics are considered functional foods in the sense that they are food ingredients that are non-digestible but are beneficial in stimulating the growth of bacteria in the colon. Most prebiotics are carbohydrates, although some are also non-carbohydrates. Prebiotics help the bacteria grow and are important in increasing the number of bacteria we have in the digestive areas.
Prebiotics can be found in soybeans, raw oats, Jerusalem artichokes, unrefined wheat and unrefined barley. Some prebiotics have also been added to processed foods.
Probiotics are currently on the market as promising, beneficial bacteria. The reasons being are the following:
-Colon Cancer Prevention: Multiple studies reported that probiotics may be associated with anti-carcinogenic effects on colon cancer when tested on rats.1,2 These studies did not include human subjects, but the beneficial effects seem promising.
-Preventing Infection: Probiotics are thought to have many benefits for immune function and may protect the body against pathogens by competing for growth in the gut. Clinical trials have even shown effectiveness with decreasing the incidence of respiratory tract infections.3
-Lactose Intolerance: People who consume probiotics and are lactose intolerant may be able to withstand higher levels of lactose since the probiotics assist with converting lactose to lactic acid. This may allow people to have a higher tolerance of lactose products when also consuming probiotics.
How much is enough and where do I get it?No set limit has been made for the amount of probiotics one needs in the diet. The National Yogurt Association suggests consuming a yogurt labeled as containing "Live and Active Cultures".
Probiotics are also being marketed in many other foods such as snack bars, cereals, and energy drinks.
Created by: Sarah Koszyk, BS, BA
References1. Brady, L., Gallaher, D., & Busta, F. (2000). The role of probiotic cultures in the prevention of colon cancer. Journal of Nutrition, 130, 410S-414S.
2. Wollowski, I., Rechkemmer, G., Pool-Zobel, B. (2001). Protective role of probiotics and prebiotics in colon cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73, 451S-455S.
3. de Vrese, M., Stegelmann, A., Richter, B., Fenselau, S., Laue, C., & Schrezenmeir, J. (2001). Probiotics-compensation for lactase insufficiency. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73, 421S-429S.
4. About Yogurt.com: Official web site of the National Yogurt Association. http://www.aboutyogurt.com.