Are Fermented Foods Good for Your Gut?

By now you’ve probably heard that a little bacteria in your food isn’t always a bad thing. Beneficial live bacteria and yeasts, called probiotics, which are found in some foods, have been associated with many benefits: weight loss and improved digestion and immunity, among others. Some evidence suggests that probiotics may help shorten a bout of diarrhea and improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. But more research is needed to support those claims and others.

Probiotic foods are made through the process of fermentation. As bacteria chemically alter the food — say, turning milk into yogurt — they secrete enzymes, organic acids and proteins. Some of the potential health perks of probiotics may be due to those compounds, says Gail Cresci of the department of gastroenterology and hepatology at the Cleveland Clinic. That’s why food is a better choice than supplements.

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