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Why probiotics?

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Probiotics! You've no doubt heard of them, but why all the fuss? Do you really need them? If you do, should you just take a supplement, or is it better to eat them?

Well, first of all, you should know the truth about probiotics- what they really are.

"Bacteria that's just helping to enhance the bacteria that is already in the intestinal tract," says Ann Hoffman, RDN of Covenant Health Care in Saginaw.

The super bacteria are, therefore, good for people with tummy issues, "They're really recommended mostly for gut health, for good digestion."

You hear all of the time about foods with added probiotics, but you will typically find them in yogurt. Probiotic bacteria are added to milk to convert it to yogurt.

Hoffman says they are found in other sources, as well, "Yogurt, for the most part, in terms of food people more typically eat. They're also probiotics in kefir, saurkraut, kimchi- some things that are not as common in the typical American diet."

There are also probiotic supplements, but Hoiffman suggests you use caution with those, "The supplements, in drops and pills, are not regulated by the FDA, so there is always the concern that you're not exactly sure what you're getting."

So, go ahead and eat your probiotics, but remember, Hoffman says, there is probably no need to over-do, "If digestion is good, you might not even need to add probiotics."

People with poor immune systems, Hoffman says, may also want to go easy on probiotics. But there is some research suggesting probiotics may help prevent colds or the flu, but Hoffman says there is not a lot of data currently, to back up those claims.

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