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How Healthy Are Probiotics?

Jason Hughes
Published by Jason Hughes
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 7, 2022

If you're wondering, ''How healthy are probiotics?'', you might be surprised by the answer. Did you know that probiotics can relieve constipation or diarrhea, prevent infection, boost your immune system, fight off cancer, curb allergic reactions, and help control weight gain?

The living microscopic organisms in probiotics provide you with a myriad of overall health benefits. They are known as ''beneficial microbes.'' These helpful organisms help keep your digestive system functioning at peak performance, eliminating waste and reducing pathogens.

Learn more about how probiotics provide a wealth of health benefits both inside and out. These helpful bacteria improve gut health and reduce signs of aging.

How Healthy Are Probiotics?

When taking probiotics, you'll discover that true health and wellness come from within your body. Probiotics improve your health and your life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics are live organisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, contribute to your health.

Probiotics don't cure disease, but if you take them as a supplement to a healthy diet, regular exercise, and restful sleep, they'll contribute to your healthy lifestyle.

Here are several special health benefits of probiotics:

  • Prevent the growth of toxins
  • Produce healthy enzymes and vitamins
  • Boost immune system
  • Increase gut health
  • Relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Eases peptic ulcers
  • Helps reduce weight and body mass
  • Lowers blood glucose
  • Decreases cholesterol
  • Helps prevent urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Reduces bacteria leading to periodontal disease
  • Decreases respiratory infections
  • Prevents yeast infections

Probiotics are available in several strains. Each probiotic strain contributes to various health benefits.

Where Do You Find Probiotics?

You can find probiotics in many foods and supplements. You can also get stronger doses by prescription from your doctor.

Foods that contain health-promoting, good bacteria from probiotic cultures include:

Yogurt

Usually made with fermented milk with live probiotic cultures, yogurt is rich in probiotics, especially strained Greek yogurt. It has a creamy consistency and is the most popular yogurt purchased by consumers. In fact, in 2020, over 44% of yogurt sales in the U.S. were Greek yogurt.

Yogurt also provides calcium, protein, and vitamin B-12. These nutrients, along with healthy gut probiotics, offer overall health benefits for your bones, muscles, and metabolism.

Fermented Foods

Fermenting is a way to preserve food. This process has been around for centuries. It's a process where natural bacteria consume the sugar and starch, which makes lactic acid. This promotes good bacteria, vitamin B, healthy enzymes, and antioxidants.

But, not all fermented foods have probiotics. For example, probiotics are removed when fermenting beer and wine. Also, canning and baking make cultures inactive.

The most popular fermented foods that have natural probiotics are kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, pickles, kimchi, cheese, sour cream, and sourdough bread.

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink made from goat or sheep milk. It's carbonated from fermentation and has a sour flavor, similar to yogurt.

One difference between kefir and yogurt is the type of probiotic culture it has. Kefir is rich in probiotics and yeast. It also provides vitamins and minerals, calcium, and essential amino acids. 

Miso

Miso is a thick, soybean paste fermented with Japanese koji fungus and salt. It's often used in soups, sauces, dips, and as a pickling base for veggies and meats.

Miso is nutrient-rich, full of protein, and contains beneficial bacteria from probiotics.  

Are Probiotics Vegan?

Not all probiotics are vegan. If you're vegan, there are a few ways you can add probiotics to your diet.

Probiotic supplements provide the same or more good bacteria that you get from foods. Just make sure to check the label for any non-vegan ingredients.

Vegan probiotic foods include fermented food like kimchi made without fish products, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.

What Are the Different Types of Probiotics?

There are over 500 probiotic strains but here are the seven most common cultures found in foods that contribute to a healthy diet:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis
  • Bifidobacterium breve
  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus

When you check the label on yogurt, kefir, and other foods that contain probiotics, you may also see several other types of probiotic strains listed.

FAQs

Are probiotics healthy for weight loss?

Yes, probiotics are healthy for weight loss. Foods with probiotics help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut. This aids in digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients.

Probiotics are naturally low in calories, so they're helpful for weight loss.

Do you need probiotics if you eat a healthy diet?

Even though you might not know it, you're most likely eating probiotics when you're following a healthy diet. Eating probiotic foods or taking supplements each day boosts your immune system, promotes digestive health, and supplies additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are beneficial to your health, but not required. 

Are probiotics healthy during pregnancy?

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health recommends taking probiotics during pregnancy to prevent allergies and other sensitivities in your baby.

Taking probiotics while you're pregnant can increase your baby's friendly bacteria. This reduces the risk of developing allergies and milk intolerance after birth.

Always check with your doctor before taking any kind of supplements or probiotics during your pregnancy. This is especially true if you have a weak immune system, have any kind of medical device, or have inflammation.


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