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Probiotics and the Prebiotics that Feed Them


Updated May 16, 2014


Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria.

Agapi Efremidou capsules

Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.

Stephanie Bretherton

Intestinal Bacteria

You have bacteria living in your gut. Sounds bad, but it's actually good. These are "friendly" bacteria that help keep bad bacteria and yeast from growing in your intestinal tract. They also help make vitamin K and keep your immune system functioning properly.

Normally you have an abundance of friendly probiotic bacteria. But if things get out of balance, you can develop intestinal dysbiosis --an overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast.

Dysbiosis has been linked with disorders like yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. A common cause of dysbiosis is antibiotic therapy. The antibiotics that you take for killing an infection will also kill the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Prebiotics and probiotics can restore the balance. 

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Common strains of probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

They're found naturally in fermented foods like sauerkraut and yogurt. And some foods have them as an added ingredient.

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates, such as oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides. They remain in the digestive tract where they stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. Sources of oligosaccharides include fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

Fructo-oligosaccharides may be taken as a supplement or added to foods.

Probiotics and Children

Probiotics are generally safe for children, however you should speak with your pediatrician before giving them to your kids. They may be beneficial for digestive complaints and diarrhea, but research hasn't clearly indicated any benefits beyond that.


Collins MD, Gibson GR. "Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics: approaches for modulating the microbial ecology of the gut." Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 May;69(5):1052S-1057S.

Lamoureux L, Roy D, Gauthier SF. "Production of oligosaccharides in yogurt containing bifidobacteria and yogurt cultures." J Dairy Sci. 2002 May;85(5):1058-69.

Thomas DW, Greer FR. "Probiotics and prebiotics in pediatrics." Pediatrics. 2010 Dec;126(6):1217-31.


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