Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
What are probiotics?
There are very few people who have not heard about the "new" health miracles called probiotics. They claim to help with health problems, ranging from constipation to diarrhea, and prevent colds or fight them once you already have one. Probiotics are showing up in foods, beverages, and supplements. What exactly are they, do they work, and are they safe for us to be consuming?
Let's start with the facts behind what probiotics are. The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning "promoting" and biotic, meaning "life." There is some debate about how to define probiotics. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." Yes, they are actually alive, and most of these microorganisms are bacteria. Most people think of antibiotics and antibacterial products when you mention bacteria. Both of those kill bacteria so why would you want to consume anything that has live bacteria in it? It's all about balance.
Our digestive system normally has what we would call "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria. Maintaining the correct balance between the "good" bacteria and the "bad" bacteria is necessary for optimal health. Things like medications, diet, diseases, and your environment can upset that balance. Is your body able to handle this on its own or do you need to start including probiotics in your diet? This article will help you decide.
Next: What is the gut?
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