would have guessed that cowboys sitting around a campfire
eating beans would be feeding their bodies’ good bacteria?
In our gut (a cowboy term for "intestinal tract") we
have trillions of good guys called "probiotics" —
beneficial bacteria that protect us from the bad bacteria that
can make us sick. Here’s how they work:
than 1000 species of microbes live in our digestive tract.
Some are beneficial and some are harmful. When the good guys
outnumber the bad, we digest our food better, have less
diarrhea and constipation, and are protected from infectious
diseases. Some evidence even suggests that good bacteria can
help us stay lean.
don’t wear white hats but they can be identified by their
distinctive titles. Common family names include Lactobacillus
and Bifidobacterium — sometimes abbreviated L. and B.
respectively. Species within these families include
acidophilus and casei. Probiotics are further identified by
distinct strains with specific actions within the body.
example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a well-studied
probiotic for digestive health found in a product called
Culturelle. Bifodobacterium lactis — a probiotic found in
Activia yogurt — was found to protect the lining of the
intestinal tract in people with a sensitivity to gluten.
the most studied use of probiotics is in the prevention of
diarrhea due to antibiotic use. Lactobacillus GC, L.rhamnosus,
and S.boulardi have been shown to be effective good guys in
this arena. Dan Active — a yogurt that rounds up L.
bulgaricus, S.thermophilus, and L.casei — lowered the risk
for antibiotic-associated diarrhea caused by the bad germ,
Clostridium difficile (aka "C.dif").
in food run with the cultured crowd. Yogurt, buttermilk and
kefir as well as fermented vegetables like kimchi and
sauerkraut are home to many of these good guys. Look for
products that feature "live and active cultures."
like rough and tough cowboys, good gut bacteria need to be
fed. They thrive on fibers found in whole grains, fruit,
vegetables and beans, of course. These "prebiotic"
dietary fibers thus nourish the good "probiotics"
that keep us well. When we eat a varied diet, we ingest a
posse of these good guys to more effectively fight the bad
update on probiotics for human health from Martin Floch at
Yale University lists how specific strains of probiotics have
been used to prevent or control diseases of the digestive
tract, especially those related to diarrhea and bowel disease.
Yet we still have much to learn about which probiotics are
useful for certain medical conditions.
caution: Even though probiotics are "Generally Recognized
As Safe" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they
should not be used willy nilly, especially in people with