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Nutritional benefits (and myths) of probiotics

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Get a grasp on probiotics

You may have read recently about the benefits of probiotics -- microorganisms (including yeast) found in a variety of foods that are thought to improve your health.
Woman eating yogurt

Along with helping improve intestinal function, probiotics are thought to help maintain a strong immune system. Probiotics are new to many people. If you’re looking for a few more facts (and myths) about probiotics, read on.

Here’s to good health!

Feeling good and staying healthy can be a wonderful thing (cold and flu season is just around the corner). There are several foods that contain probiotics, said to boost immunity as well as help with digestive troubles.

If you’ve read this recent SheKnows feature on the benefits of fermented foods, you know they include probiotics. Think yogurt. Many yogurts on the market contain probiotics, and let’s face it -- when good-for-you food is easy to find, tastes great and is convenient, it’s a no-brainer that you're more likely to eat it.

Check out these 5 tips for women’s digestive health >

Good Belly Orange JuiceConvenience is king

If you’re looking for another convenient, great-tasting and probiotic-friendly food found on grocery shelves try juice drinks like the dairy-free, soy-free and vegan probiotic juice drinks by GoodBelly. GoodBelly juices come in a variety of sizes (from single shots to family-sized quarts), and unique flavor combos from lemon ginger to vanilla chamomile and even coconut water and cranberry watermelon.

Get more probiotics -- the bacteria that is good for you >

Learn more about probiotics

Not everyone knows what to expect of probiotics. Check out the following information provided by Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, author of Inside Tract, Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health (Rodale 2011), to help you get a better understanding of probiotics:

Top Five Probiotic Myths:

1

Probiotics only digest food.

False. While some probiotic strains may help digest food, they can also have many other benefits for overall health. Research is still ongoing, but evidence suggests that probiotics may help treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and intestinal infections, address skin conditions and autoimmune diseases, reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, prevent colds and flu, and much more.

2

Probiotics must survive passage through the stomach to be effective.

True. Probiotics can only offer a benefit and be classified as a true probiotic if they survive the harsh, acidic environment of the stomach, adhere to the intestinal lining and colonize, establishing a healthy balance of intestinal microflora.

3

If one probiotic doesn’t work for me, none of them will.

False. There are thousands of probiotic strains, and not all are created equal. Although many strains are touted to contain “live and active cultures,” this does not guarantee they are a true probiotic and will deliver a benefit. Shoppers should look for products made with probiotic strains that are backed by clinical research and studies to ensure they are getting a product whose benefits are supported by science.

4

Probiotics should be taken daily.

True. The lining of the intestinal tract is shed and completely replaced every couple of days, so it is important to take probiotics daily to constantly replenish the good bacteria that are lost in this process.

5

Yogurt is an effective probiotic.

It depends. Historically, probiotic cultures have been present in yogurt, yet very few yogurts contain cultures that meet the true definition of a probiotic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires products labeled as a yogurt to include live cultures of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. However, neither of these strains have been shown to survive the passage through harsh stomach acids in order to colonize the intestine in any significant numbers.

Note

If you have concerns or questions about your digestive or general health, or need more information about how you can benefit from probiotics, consult with your health care professional.

Watch: How to make banana berry yogurt pops

Make these cold treats for when your kids come in from playing in the hot sun this summer. They're healthy, and your kids are sure to love them!

More on digestive health

Optimizing probiotics and prebiotics
Choose the healthiest yogurt
Why yogurt is a top-rated health food

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