Friendly bacteria help keep your intestinal ecosystem in balance.
The human digestive tract is home to hundreds of species of bacteria. Under healthy conditions, the good bacteria have the upper hand over harmful ones. But sometimes the balance is upset—when you’re taking antibiotics, for example, or you contract a case of traveller’s diarrhoea.
A growing body of research shows that ingesting concentrated doses of friendly bacteria, probiotics, can help reset that balance and may be as effective as medication in treating certain digestive disorders. The key to finding relief is to choose the right strain, says Barry Goldin, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University’s nutrition school in Boston. “Probiotics can have very significant effects on health when you get the right strains for the right conditions,” Goldin says.
Traditional diets have always included cultured and fermented foods such as yoghurt, pickled vegetables or soy products, which may help tip the balance in the gut in favour of health-promoting bacteria. While supplements are helpful for treating specific conditions, getting your probiotics in food can help you maintain healthy intestines and immunity, according to nutritionist Jo Ann Hattner, the author of Gut Insight: Probiotics and Prebiotics for Digestive Health and Well-Being. She suggests eating fermented or cultured foods with naturally occurring friendly bacteria, such as yoghurt or miso. She also suggests eating foods containing nondigestible ingredients known as prebiotics—fibrous molecules that nourish the friendly bacteria present in the body. Heather boerner
Find the Right Bug
Not feeling well? Choose a supplement that contains the right strain to treat your condition.
- For traveller’s diarrhoea use Saccharomyces boulardii or a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
- For bloating, gas or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) use Bifidobacterium infantis 35624.
- For bacterial vaginosis use Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 combined with Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14.
Feed your Belly
5 food sources of PREBIOTICS, fibrous molecules that nourish probiotics or friendly bacteria:
- whole wheat
5 cultured or fermented foods that contain PROBIOTICS, health-promoting bacteria: