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Taking Care of Our “Friendly Bacteria” Probiotics and Prebiotics. Elizabeth Bancroft OHSU Dietetic Intern 2010. What are probiotics?. Microorganisms: Tiny organisms such as bacteria and yeast that can only be seen under a microscope

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Taking Care of Our “Friendly Bacteria” Probiotics and Prebiotics

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Taking care of our friendly bacteria probiotics and prebiotics

Taking Care of Our “Friendly Bacteria”Probiotics and Prebiotics

Elizabeth Bancroft

OHSU Dietetic Intern 2010

What are probiotics

What are probiotics?

  • Microorganisms:

    • Tiny organisms such as bacteria and yeast that can only be seen under a microscope

  • Used to prevent and treat certain illnesses and support overall wellness

  • Common types:

    • Bifidobacterium bifidus

    • Lactobacillus acidophilus

      National Institutes of Health, 2008

Where can you find probiotics

Where can you find probiotics?

  • Naturally on the surface of fruits and vegetables

  • Used to produce certain foods

    • Yogurt and kefir

  • In dietary supplements

    • Liquid

    • Pills or capsules

Yogurt and kefir

Yogurt and Kefir

  • Yogurt and kefir are both cultured-dairy products

  • They are produced by adding probiotic bacteria to milk

Healthy bacteria in yogurt

Healthy bacteria in yogurt

  • If you ever look at a yogurt label it may say something like:

    • Ingredients: Milk, Nonfat milk powder, L. acidophilus, S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, B. bifidum cultures.

    • The ingredients in blue are probiotics - live strains of healthy bacteria.

What have you heard about probiotics or prebiotics

What have you heard about probiotics or prebiotics???

Intestinal bacteria

Intestinal Bacteria

  • Your intestines have BILLIONS of friendly bacteria living in them!

  • Babies are born with sterile digestive systems

  • BUT they quickly become populated with certain types of healthy bacteria

Bacteria that are good for your gut

Bacteria that are good for your gut!

  • Healthy bacteria that live in your intestine help you by:

    • Breaking down some components of food that you cannot digest

      • Such as, the part of beans that sometimes causes gas - called oligosaccharides

    • Preventing intestinal infections by crowding out harmful bacteria so that they don’t make you sick

Why consume probiotics

Why consume probiotics?

  • Taking probiotics is associated with certain health benefits in some individuals.

  • And probiotics do not appear to be harmful for overall healthy children and adults.

Probiotics and diarrhea

When children develop viral diarrhea:

Taking probiotics soon after the diarrhea begins can decrease the duration of diarrhea by 1 day

When children are prescribed antibiotics:

Antibiotics kill BOTH the harmful bacteria in their body AND the “friendly” bacteria in their intestines

This can cause diarrhea

Giving children probiotic supplements or yogurt on a regular basis can sometimes prevent this type of diarrhea when children need to take antibiotics

American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

Probiotics and Diarrhea

Probiotics and premature infants

Probiotics and Premature Infants

  • Infants who are born premature or with low birth weights sometimes develop necrotizing enterocolitis

    • Infection and inflammation of the intestines

  • Probiotics may help to prevent this condition

    American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

Other possible uses of probiotics

To treat:


Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Crohn’s Disease


Common infections


…BUT all of these need further research before recommendations can be made

American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

Other possible uses of probiotics?…

Probiotics are not recommended for

Probiotics are NOT recommended for…

  • Infants or children who are immunocompromised - or have immune system problems

  • Preterm infants with illnesses

  • Preterm or full term infants with intravenous catheters or other indwelling medical devices

    American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

What are prebiotics

What are prebiotics?

  • Nutrients that humans cannot digest BUT that our “friendly” bacteria can eat

  • By adding prebiotics to our food we “feed” the “healthy” bacteria in our intestines

Food sources of prebiotics

Food Sources of Prebiotics

  • Food Sources:

    • Artichokes

    • Bananas

    • Barley

    • Berries

    • Dairy Products

    • Greens

    • Honey

    • Leeks

    • Legumes

    • Onions

    • Whole grains

      Mayo Clinic, 2009

Prebiotics in human milk

Prebiotics in Human Milk

  • Free nucleotides are similar to prebiotics

  • Some infant formulas have 7-20mg/dL of added free nucleotides

  • BUT human milk contains substantial amounts of prebiotic oligosaccharides

    • As much as 14 g/L…as well as free nucleotides!

  • Some infant formulas now add prebiotic oligosaccharides to their products

    American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

Prebiotic supplements

Prebiotic Supplements

  • Powders that you sprinkle on to your food or stir into a beverage

  • Or capsules or tablets that you chew or swallow

    Mayo Clinic, 2009

Common prebiotics

Common Prebiotics

  • FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides)

  • Inulin

  • GOS (Galacto-oligosaccharides)

  • Soybean oligosaccharides

  • Dietary fiber is made up of complex polysaccharides that can be considered prebiotics

    American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010

Activia yogurt

Activia Yogurt

  • Claims to “naturally regulate your digestive system”

  • Can help with occasional irrregularity

  • Activia yogurt contains a probiotic bacteria called Bifidus Regularis 

  • “Activia with fiber” - one variety of the yogurt contains the bacteria and inulin

    • A probiotic and a prebiotic!!

Review probiotics vs prebiotics


Live microorganisms

Healthy bacteria

Live in intestinal tract

Found in yogurt and kefir

Taken as dietary supplements



Not alive

Food for probiotics

Healthy bacteria in the intestine feed on prebiotics

Found in foods

Usually foods containing fiber

Taken as dietary supplement

Review: Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

Consult your doctor

Consult your Doctor

  • Probiotic and prebiotic foods and supplements are sold over-the-counter

  • They are considered to be very safe

  • HOWEVER, when you see your doctor it is always a good idea to tell them about any supplements you are taking!



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