Nutrition Corner: Keep your gut happy with probiotics

Nutrition Corner - Mary R. Ehret | August 6th, 2015 12:56 pm

Did you know that approximately 70 percent of the body’s immune function is in the GI tract? The GI tract or gastrointestinal tract is a host to a variety of different bacteria and other microorganisms. They help our gut stay healthy by keeping toxins and pathogens (organisms that cause us to be sick) from entering the body.

Probiotics are live microorganisms or bacteria similar to those found in the GI. We can get probiotics from cultured dairy products like yogurt, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, fermented soy products like miso and other foods like microbrew beer and wine.

Not all probiotics are created equal. The word probiotic means it contains live microorganisms in adequate amounts and provides a health benefit. It’s important to note that even if a product label states it contains “live cultures” or “live and active cultures,” the product might not be a probiotic. Refrigerated cultures should have at least 100 million cultures per gram; frozen yogurt should contain at least 10 million cultures per grams. Some common claims that should raise concerns are testimonials used as evidence of effectiveness, vague terms such as clinically tested and some recommendations based on a single study.

The strains of bacteria that have been well studied are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus thermophiles and Saccharomyces. Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces have been studied for treatment of acute infectious diarrhea, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus thermophiles for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

An added benefit of yogurt is it has enzymes that use the lactose in the milk (natural milks sugar) so it doesn’t create havoc on folks who have problems digesting lactose. Yogurt is made with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles.

To understand more about probiotics, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, online. Meanwhile, this summer, while you’re out and about, keep your gut healthy by including a food in your diet that contains a probiotic. Enjoy this healthy alternative to the traditional banana split.

Banana Split

1 small banana, peeled

1 cup low‐fat vanilla yogurt

¼ cup crushed whole grain dry cereal or low‐fat granola

¼ cup fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or others)

Cut the banana in half lengthwise (from tip to tip) or, for small children, cut into thin slices. Spoon yogurt into a two small cereal bowls. Place the banana halves on the sides of the yogurt of arrange the slices around it. Top the yogurt with half of whole grain cereal or low‐fat granola. Add blueberries/strawberries or other fruits. Serve.

Nutrition Corner

Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at