What is your gut reaction?

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

It’s tough being a single-cell organism these days!  At the mere mention of the word “bacteria”, most of us have the urge to run and wash our hands.  We have come to associate bacteria with infection and illness, and in most cases this is quite accurate.  However, as it turns out, the human body is comprised of more bacterial cells than animal cells.  These are the “good” bacteria, the angelic twin of those harboring disease.

Our bodies require a significant amount of healthy bacteria in order to effectively allow the digestive processes to occur.  The term probiotics, which means “for life,” has been coming into more conventional vernacular as it appears on the labels of many of the cultured foods we enjoy, such as yogurt.  In recent years, numerous studies have been published on the health benefits of yogurt, due in large part to the bacterial cultures used in its production. In the United States, these lactic acid-producing bacteria (LAB) include Lactobacillus and Streptococcus species.

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Yogurts containing probiotics will print the words “live and active cultures” on their labels. When consumed in adequate quantities, these “good” bacteria help to adjust the microflora (the natural balance of organisms) in the intestines, and can also have a positive impact on digestion and immune function.  According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  “Some studies using yogurt, individual LAB species, or both showed promising health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrheal diseases, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and allergies.”

Scientists from the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University arrived at similar conclusions through their research.  They determined that such positive effects might be due to the ability of probiotics to alter the amount of time required for food to travel through the bowel, as well as providing a boost to the body’s immune system. 

Yogurts today come in such a wide variety of flavors and consistencies that making them a regular part of your diet should be fairly easy.  With the added bonus of being a great source of dairy to help strengthen bones, go with your gut and enjoy some delicious probiotics every day!