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Question: What are probiotics and prebiotics? How can I benefit from consuming them?

Answer: Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling growth of harmful bacteria. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics. The primary benefit of probiotics and prebiotics appears to be helping you maintain a healthy digestive system.

Question: What foods are good sources of probiotics?

Answer: One of the best sources of probiotics is yogurt. It has good bacteria like lactobacillus or bifidobacteria. Look for “live or active cultures” on the label to be sure your favorite brand of yogurt is a rich source of probiotics. Other good food sources are sauerkraut, miso soup, fermented, soft cheeses (like Gouda), and even sourdough bread. The common feature of all these foods is fermentation, a process that produces probiotics.

Question: What foods are good sources of prebiotics?

Answer: To help maintain healthy level of prebiotics, you can feed them with the foods you eat. Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes.

Question: What foods, if any, have both prebiotics and probiotics in them?

Answer: The types of foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics are very different. Therefore, there is no food that contains both. However, you can find supplements that contain probiotics and prebiotics.

Question: Can consuming probiotics help prevent yeast infections?

Answer: There is some evidence that eating yogurt may help prevent vaginal yeast infections. Some doctors recommend this to help prevent infections in women who have them frequently.

Question: Can adding prebiotics to my diet replace the meds I have to take for my Crohn's disease?

Answer: No, probiotics or prebiotics are not an appropriate replacement for your medications. You should not stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor. This could lead to an increase in symptoms and complications. There is some evidence that probiotics may be helpful for people with Crohn’s disease, but the research is very preliminary. Plus, some medical evidence questions their usefulness. If you’re interested in trying probiotics or prebiotics, talk to your doctor about how to safely incorporate them into your diet.