You’ve probably heard of probiotics on food commercials and labels. Bonnie Alexander, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center tells us all about probiotics.

Probiotics, and related prebiotics, are a type of food that can be beneficial for your digestive health when consumed regularly.

Prebiotics are non-digestible, non-living food ingredients that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria by acting as food for the live bacteria in our stomachs. They are absorbed in the small intestine and are normally consumed in conjunction with probiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast similar to the bacteria found naturally in the gut. They help to replace and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that can be depleted over time, or negatively influenced by a poor diet.

What are the Benefits?

The gut flora, or collective bacteria environment in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, can have a direct influence on our overall health and immunity. Recent studies have shown that a poor gut flora correlates with an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Our gut flora changes over time based on diet, and once most of the good gut bacteria have been depleted, it can be difficult to replenish. Probiotics have been shown to improve the gut flora, and effectively treat problems like diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and liver disease. They can also help with general GI function and health.

Are There any Risks?

Consuming prebiotics and probiotics is generally very safe, specifically when eaten in natural food sources. You could experience gas, bloating or abdominal cramping. If you choose to take supplements, talk to your doctor and make sure live cultures and fiber are the only ingredients.

Where can you Find Them?

Prebiotics are found in everyday food items – here are some examples.

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Soybeans
  • Breast milk
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Chicory root
  • Leeks

Probiotics can be found in these foods.

  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Water kefir
  • Sour dough bread
  • Kombucha
  • Kefir

How Much Should you Have?

The suggested daily intake of prebiotics is 5-8 grams per day. There is no suggested daily intake of probiotics, eating some source of natural probitoics daily can help improve your stomach and digestive health. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for more advice.

Simply increasing your daily vegetable intake and consuming yogurt with live active cultures, is a great, easy way to keep your GI tract happy and healthy!

Want more help eating healthy? Make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians by calling 301-891-6105.