Probiotics are bacteria, often called "good bacteria," found mainly in milk-based products. These products include yogurt, fermented, unfermented milk and other cultured milk products. However, in the case with fermented milk products, many times the probiotics are added after the fermentation process. While the full benefits of probiotics have not been fully explored, there are still many professionals who advocate for their use.
Probiotics In Milk
According to the Dairy Council of California "milk to which probiotic bacteria have been added, such as acidophilus milk, and fermented milk products" are some of the best sources for probiotics. The World Health Organization has recognized that giving probiotics to children and high-risk populations, especially milk products with probiotics, is being increasingly advocated by health care professionals.
Probiotics In Cultured Milk Products
Cultured milk products like yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk drink) are good sources for probiotics. The Dairy Council of California recommends you look for the "live active culture" label on yogurt products. This label will assure consumers the lactic acid bacteria in the product are viable and beneficial.
According to the Dairy Council of California and the World Health Organization, the benefits of probiotics include intestinal tract health, aiding with allergy resistance, immune system heath, aiding with urogenital tract disorders and lactose intolerance and having limited potential in the treatment and prevention of cancer. However, despite the apparent benefits, both Barry Goldin, a professor at Tufts University, and Daniel O’Sullivan, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, state more research must be done on probiotics before we can understand their full benefits.
Probiotic Use for Children
According to the Dairy Council of California, probiotic use in children may be beneficial to the development of the immune system. According to a study published in the "British Journal of Dermatology," mothers who drank one glass of milk containing probiotics per day were able to reduce the risk of eczema in their children by 40 percent. The study was conducted with mothers drinking probiotic rich milk between Week 36 of the pregnancy up until three months after the child's birth. The World Health Council has also stated probiotics "could have a significant effect in alleviating infectious disease in children."
How and When To Take
According to the World Health Organization, if probiotics are given to newborns, "it is feasible that probiotic microorganisms could become primary colonizers that remain long-term, perhaps even for life." However, according to the Dairy Council of California, most probiotics do not remain in the intestinal tract. Therefore, if you want to start on a probiotic regimen, you should be taking probiotics everyday. To ensure the benefits, the proper amount to take is 3 1/2 cups of yogurt or acidophilus milk per day; lower levels may also be useful, but there is not substantial evidence to support this.
When starting on a probiotic regiment, consult your doctor. Also, keep in mind probiotic research is still undergoing, and results are not yet fully conclusive on the benefits of probiotics.
- National Institutes of Health: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Introduction to Probiotics
- Science Daily: Probiotics Use in Mothers Limits Eczema in Their Babies, Study Finds
- Dairy Council of California: Probiotics – Friendly Bacteria with a Host of Benefits
- World Health Organization: Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria