Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Probiotics Work for You

Probiotics help fight off infection, inflammation, and more.
Probiotics help fight off infection, inflammation, and more.
Image: Shutterstock 
Chances are, you’ve heard of probiotics before. But do you know why they're supposed to be good for you and where to find them? They can be incredibly helpful and essential to your body’s functions. As research has developed over the years, we’ve discovered that our bodies are home to more than just us. I recently read an article from Time Magazine that discussed both the bad and the good microbes (“bugs”) living with us, and it taught me some valuable things.

Miso is a great source of probiotics.
Miso is a great source of probiotics.
Image: Albert Lynn via Flickr CC
The truth is, most microbes are good. The ones that cause disease and sickness are the minority of “bugs” on and in our bodies. According to Lita Proctor, coordinator of the Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health (NICH), “Tens of thousands of species of microorganisms live with is. They belong there, they’re good for us, and they support health and well-being.”

These helpful microorganisms are called probiotics, and are extremely beneficial to our health, possibly reducing intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, urogenital infections, and atopic diseases.

When we get sick, our doctors often prescribe antibiotics, which do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria. While they take care of the bad bacteria, they may also be killing probiotics in your body. Taking probiotic supplements or eating foods with probiotics can be a good way to help your body recover swifter from sickness. Just be sure to consult a doctor first.

And luckily, probiotics can be found in lots of popular foods, making this simple health-booster easily available:
  • Yogurt or Kefir (a fermented milk drink)
  • Miso, a Japanese soy-based seasoning
  • Tempeh, a soy-based substitute for meat
  • Saurkraut
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Probiotic soy beverages and fruit drinks
Of course, like any vitamin, probiotics can also be ingested in pill or powder form, though it’s a good idea to consult with a pharmacist or caregiver before using them.

Garlic contains valuable prebiotics.
Garlic contains valuable prebiotics.
Image: Shutterstock
Some foods also contain prebiotics, which can help your body keep up its own probiotics growing. These foods are easy to include in any diet:
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Chicory Root
  • Artichoke
  • Banana
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Honey