Top your pizza with probiotics?

You may expect more bugs in your food this summer! Though in the recent past, you might have only found probiotics in your yogurt, now food companies are adding the digestive and immune system helpers to granola, juices, baking mixes, and even pizza and water! In fact one kind of prunes is said to “deliver active cultures 10 times more effectively than yogurt,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ’s) Life & Arts article (7/5/17) on the subject “Probiotics With Your Pizza?”

But what exactly are probiotics? Mayo Clinic answers “Probiotics are good bacteria that are either the same as or very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Your lower digestive tract alone teems with a complex and diverse community of these bacteria.” The clinic also asserts that, “there are a greater number of bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your body.” Of course, not all bacteria is good for you and bad bacteria may outnumber the body’s good bacteria causing a poor balance for the body systems. This imbalance, according to Mayo Clinic, can lead to constipation, diarrhea, skin conditions, weight gain, and chronic health problems.

Today’s food items introducing probiotics may include amongst other items, a few yogurts, some cheeses, dairy products such as Lactobacillus milk or kefir, and kimchi and sauerkraut.

In fact, WSJ adds “The number of food products in the U.S. making a probiotic-related claim has nearly tripled to more than 500 in the last five years, according to a food market research firm…” This is the result of the general consumer wanting medicinal benefits now added to nutritional benefits from food. Though many stores do stock many of these probiotic-infused food items, some do not allow less-healthy items such as pizza, high in fat and sodium, on their shelves. The journal tells us “Some food scientists argue that, unlike strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which are more documented in scientific research and typically appear in yogurt, there are far fewer studies on spore-forming varieties now appearing in so many foods.” Some skeptics think these newer foods are being introduced ahead of clinical research, but others say that the newer spore-forming foods have been recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Whole Foods quality standards coordinator, Joe Dickson, informs us that the retailer does work with suppliers to make sure “the nutrition label is kept in check even with the addition of a probiotic.”

How does a probiotic dietary supplement affect your health? Again according to Mayo Clinic, the right type and amount of the probiotic can help in numerous ways:

1. It promotes a healthy immune system

2. It supports a weight management program

3. It prevents the occasional diarrhea or constipation bout. When you choose a yogurt, the clinic advises us to look for the seal “Live and Active Cultures” on the product label. This guarantees that the yogurt product has at least 100 million active cultures per gram of yogurt. How much you take for other types of probiotic products depends on why you are taking the food and the bacteria type included within. Combination strains found in the human gastrointestinal tract, Lactobacillus family and Bifidobacterium, are good places with which to begin for those taking other probiotic supplements.

Generally speaking, probiotics are safe in the amounts normally found in your daily diet. Though the strains of bacteria and their doses are not always known for optimum usage, if you are lactose intolerant, take only dairy-free probiotics. Be cautious when taking a probiotic supplement if you are being treated for a fungal infection, taking an antibiotic or prescription drug that affects your immune system, or have an infection in your pancreas. Also, it may not be safe for you to take a dietary probiotic supplement if you have a weakened immune system, get infections easy, or are allergic to some sources of the probiotic as mentioned above in lactose intolerant.

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