Probiotics are Bugs?


My kids and I were sitting around the table the other morning as we had breakfast together. My son started telling us about the bugs that live in your eyelashes and all the dustmites that make camp under your fingernails. My daughters started turning a shade of green I’d not seen before. “Okay dude, that’s enough. You’re grossing out your sisters.” His reply?   Very boyish indeed. “SWEET! You know Mom, that’s my goal in life. If I could gross them out everyday that’d be awesome.”  (And the Mother of the Year award goes to….somebody else. Oh well, I don’t want it.   I hate making speeches.) As I tried to save the conversation around the breakfast table (and to avoid cleaning up even a trace amount of vomit) I found myself telling the girls that there are certain bugs that help us stay healthy.   My oldest daughter turned to me and snapped, “Like what?” Probiotics!! You may be asking the same question she did. If so, keep reading.

What are probiotics? Probiotics are bugs. You should have seen her face! “Probiotics are bugs? Mom, that’s gross!”   Yes, probiotics are bugs, that is they are live  bacteria with clinically-documented health benefits. They help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. When the digestive system is kept healthy, other body systems greatly benefit as well. Probiotics have been shown to:

  • Protect against infection
  • Enhance and boost the immune system
  • Promote and improve digestive health
  • Promote urinary health
  • Assist in the management of inflammation
  • Improve some types of eczema in infants and children
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Decrease the risk of certain cancers

It is important to note that each type of  probiotic has a specific health benefit to the body. There have been over 400 different types of probiotics identified. It seems safe to say that researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each different type.

Where do I get these probiotics? You can actually buy probiotics just like you would buy vitamins. Some come in pill form while others come as a liquid. Liquids are assimilated by our bodies at a faster rate and therefore will affect you quicker. You can find them at any health food store such as Good Earth or Whole Foods Market. The liquid version is usually kept refrigerated. If you would rather consume foods that have probiotics versus taking them like a supplement you can find them in the foods listed below:

  • Yogurt
  • Drinkable and squeezable yogurts
  • Fluid milk with added probiotics
  • Fermented milk such as sweet acidophilus milk
  • Kefir (Cherry or Raspberry are the yummiest! My favorite way to drink probiotics)

Through the fermentation process, probiotics actually enhance the flavor and texture of these particular dairy products. Did you know that dairy foods actually buffer your stomach acid and bile, thereby protecting the probiotics from the stomach acid so that they can reach the intestines? Cool, huh? I remember when I was little, like three or four years old, my mom would make yogurt every week. I used to ask her why, because to me it tasted nasty. She loved it and would always tell me that it was good for her body. She was right! Raw yogurt is loaded with friendly bacteria.   Most commercial yogurts  are pasteurized and these friendly bacteria are killed. The manufacturers add some of the friendly bacteria  back into them though. Play it safe and  look for a yogurt that contains the “live and active culture” sign on the label, then you should be okay. You will want to pay close attention to the expiration date though because these live bacterial cultures will  diminish with time, so buy it as fresh as you can and make sure to eat it within a week.

By the end of the conversation, my kids had learned something  cool about how their bodies work, nobody was even a light shade of green and even more important, I didn’t have to clean up anybody’s vomit. The way I see it, that’s a win-win!

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