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You may have noticed more and more products on the shelves saying that they are a “probiotic”, but what does that mean? And why are probiotics helpful?

In school, we usually learn that bacteria are bad because they cause disease; but not all bacteria are bad. In fact, most of the bacteria in our environment are extremely helpful. From keeping our waterways clear of algae and sludge, to producing oxygen, to helping us digest our food, bacteria play a vital role in our ecological and physiological systems.

Probiotics are certain strains of bacteria that help us digest food and get the most out of the food we eat. Without a healthy level of these bacteria in our digestive system, we would be malnourished because we wouldn’t be able to properly extract the nutrients from our food.

These probiotics can also help combat toxic bacteria in your system.

That is why they are called probiotics. “Pro” meaning “favoring or supporting” and biotic meaning “related to living things”. As a living thing, these bacteria support your health.

Here are a few probiotic bacteria and what foods you can find them in.

Lactobacillus acidophilus

Lactobacillus acidophilus is naturally present in dairy products, and often added to miso, tempeh, and yogurt. They are found most commonly in the mouth, intestines and female genital areas. Besides being a big producer of vitamin K they also produce acids that help fight bacterial infection and fungal growth.

Tobacillus acidophilus

Tobacillus acidophilus is found in sour cream, yogurt and buttermilk. They also produce compounds that help prevent bacterial infections.

Acidophilus bifidus

Acidophilus bifidus is found in yogurt, miso and tempeh. They produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide which helps prevent bacterial infection. They also curb hostile yeasts such as Candida albicans, help remove toxins that could infect your blood and boost your immune system.

Escherichia coli

While it is important to avoid the harmful strains of E. coli that can cause food poisoning, it is also important to know that there are helpful strains of E. Coli naturally residing in your digestive system. This bacteria produces Vitamin K2 and helps fight off other harmful bacteria. Because of the concern regarding harmful E. coli strains, it is difficult to supplement beneficial E. coli but it can be found in certain supplements.