Probiotics, as defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), are "live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host." The microorganisms referred to in this definition are non-pathogenic bacteria (small, single celled organisms which do not promote or cause disease), and one yeast, Saccharomyces. They are considered "friendly germs," due to benefits to the colon and the immune system. The word probiotic is a compound of a Latin and a Greek word; it means "favorable to life." Probiotics is also sometimes used to refer to a form of nutritional therapy based on eating probiotic foods and dietary supplements. Although probiotic supplements have also been used with farm animals, most are produced for human consumption in the form of dairy products containing two types of microbes—lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. As with the extended use of royal jelly, probiotics are now also being used in face creams and similar cosmetic products.
A new category called prebiotics now also appears in the literature. Prebiotics refer mainly to certain foods, and occasionally to certain food products, that support probiotic microorganism viability, enhancing their survivability. Included among prebiotics are foods such as Jerusalem and regular artichokes, oats, leeks, onions, and whole grain breads or cereals. Examples of prebiotic food products are the Fructooligosaccharides (fructooligo-saccharides, or fruit derived, digestion resistant sugars) (FOS), also in honey, and the galactooligosaccharides (galacto-oligo-saccharides), sugars in galactose-containing foods like goats milk.
Rebecca Frey Ph.D., Katherine E. Nelson N.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,