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Not all bacteria are bad for your body. In fact, over 1,000 different species of good bacteria live in your gut and play a key role in your health and how you feel. They make up what is called the microbiome and what you feed this system is directly linked to its health. Because of that, more and more consumers are taking probiotic supplements to enhance their gut health.

The benefits of probiotics

Probiotics are the actual living organisms found naturally in the gut. They help to break down food, aiding with digestion. There are many, many different types and subtypes of these organisms. Researchers are studying the unique benefits of each so we can have a better idea of how all these organisms work together.

Sometimes your body can benefit from more of this helpful bacteria, especially after taking antibiotics, which kill both the good and bad bacteria. Having a good amount of this healthy bacteria helps with digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other issues.

Other benefits of probiotics can include weight loss, a stronger immune system and increased energy. Most research on probiotic supplements is still in early stages, so beware of marketing claims of probiotics that treat specific conditions. Also, if you have a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor before taking probiotic supplements.

Where to find probiotics

You can find probiotics in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and more. Incorporating these foods into your diet is a great way to increase your friendly bacteria levels.

Probiotic supplements can be found at most major drugstores and are fairly inexpensive. You don’t need a prescription to buy probiotic supplements, but you should talk to your doctor before taking them to avoid any issues.  There are many different bacteria used in probiotic supplements and the amount of a specific bacteria in a supplement can vary by brands. If you think you can benefit from a probiotic supplement, talk to your doctor first for a recommendation.

And when talking about probiotics, we must also talk about prebiotics. Prebiotics are plant fibers that the microbes feed on which help it to grow. Vegetables that contain prebiotics are fibrous and stringy, like sweet potatoes and asparagus. These carbs can’t be digested by your body so they pass through your digestive system and help “feed” the good bacteria. You can also take supplements for prebiotics if you can’t get enough in your diet. Think of prebiotics as the food that sustains your existing good bacteria.

While the proof may seem to be in the pudding (or yogurt), researchers are still in the process of determining exactly what probiotics can and can’t do, so you should talk to your doctor about whether or not consuming more probiotics is right for you.

UCF Health offers GI care from its two office locations in East Orlando and Lake Nona.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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