You don’t necessarily need probiotics – live microorganisms similar to the good bacteria in your intestines – to be healthy. However, they may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing “good” bacteria in your body already do. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that enhance the effects of probiotics by stimulating bacteria. Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. In addition, both may be added to some foods and are available as supplements.
- Treat diarrhea
- Prevent and treat yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome
- Prevent and treat eczema in children
- Prevent or reduce the severity of flus or colds
Side effects are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics to their diet. Remember, If you’re considering taking supplements check with your doctor or registered dietitian to make sure they are right for you. Probiotics are generally safe for children and may be beneficial for digestive complaints, but research hasn’t clearly indicated any benefits beyond that.
More information on the benefits and risks of probiotics and prebiotics can be found at MissouriFamilies.org
Contributors: Loni Stewart, MU Dietetic Intern & Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension, WissmannM@missouri.edu