Probiotics are live bacteria that reside inside your gut and vagina. They have a role in immunity and health, especially your digestive system.
14 foods and drinks with the most probiotics
The following foods and drinks have the most probiotics:
- Some types of cheese (such as blue cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, and gouda)
- Fermented pickles
- Apple cider vinegar
- Sourdough bread
- Acidophilus milk
What are the benefits of taking probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that serve several health advantages. These beneficial microorganisms include yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii and bacteria such as:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus,
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus,
- Bacillus coagulans, and
- Bifidobacterium bifidum.
They benefit your health through five main mechanisms:
- Boosting your immune system
- Producing beneficial substances such as vitamins
- Producing substances that kill disease-causing organisms in the gut
- Helping with the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
- Creating and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome (a healthy colony of the microbiome)
Studies have reported the effectiveness of probiotics in various health conditions, such as:
- Gut problems including
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cancer treatment–associated diarrhea
- Clostridium difficile infection (a bacterial infection that mainly affects the colon)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Traveler’s diarrhea
- Dental conditions including
- Bad breath
- Dental plaque
- Tooth decay
- Gum diseases
- Allergic conditions including
- Certain infections including
- Urinary tract infections
- Upper respiratory tract infections such as sinusitis, ear infections, and common cold
- Leukorrhea (white vaginal discharge)
- Skin conditions including
- Infant health conditions including
Are probiotics and prebiotics the same?
Prebiotics and probiotics are not the same. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms, whereas prebiotics is nondigestible substances present in foods that specifically promote the growth of these helpful microorganisms. Synbiotics contain both prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics boost your gut microbiome by providing food for “good” microorganisms. Biochemically, prebiotics is nondigestible carbohydrates or plant fiber. They are abundantly present in various fruits and vegetables.
Some of the sources of prebiotics include leafy vegetables, yam, oatmeal, and other whole grains, bananas, artichokes, maple syrup, and honey.
Can probiotics be harmful?
Probiotics are generally safe for most healthy people. They may, however, cause certain side effects, especially in people who are severely ill or immunocompromised (have a weak immune system). The safety of probiotics is particularly questionable in premature babies, infants, and pregnant women.
Some of the probiotic foods and drinks have caused side effects, such as:
- Food poisoning
- Abdominal cramps
- Severe bacterial and fungal infections particularly in people with compromised immunity such as those with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
- Acidosis (a condition in which the pH of the blood becomes low or acidic)
Probiotic drinks such as kombucha are often brewed in containers made of lead. There have been instances of lead poisoning in consuming such beverages. Moreover, having probiotics may pass on antibiotic resistance to disease-causing bacteria, making the condition more difficult to treat.
Many probiotic supplements may contain contaminants including disease-causing microorganisms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may regulate probiotic supplements as drugs, supplements, or food ingredients. The regulation depends on the product’s intended use.
Until a probiotic supplement is being marketed as a drug, it does not require strict FDA approval. Hence, it is safer to consume probiotic supplements after consulting your doctor. Prefer consuming probiotic foods made with quality ingredients under hygienic conditions and consuming them before their use-by date.
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