Probiotics are microorganisms that have proved to be beneficial to human health, and has earned the name ‘friendly bacteria’. Here’s more…
Probiotics is derived from Greek, and means for life. Also known as ‘good bacteria’, probiotics are live microorganisms that stimulate growth and are said to confer health benefits. Probably the term evolved in direct contrast to antibiotics, which are substances that inhibit growth. Probiotics or beneficial bacteria have been in use for centuries in food and alcoholic fermentation.
The beginning of the 20th century saw an increase in scientific observations of the role played by probiotics in providing health benefits, and these were first introduced by Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Dr. Ilya Mechnikov. He suggested a possibility of modifying the gut flora (microorganisms that normally live in the digestive tract of humans and animals) and replacing harmful bacteria with beneficial ones.
There are more than a million microorganisms such as bacteria, virus, and yeast present in our digestive system. Of these, the friendly or good bacteria protect the body from harmful or pathogenic bacteria by reducing their presence and multiplication. The most common probiotic strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are used widely to promote good health.
Scientist still do not have an exact answer as to how probiotics work. However, while some are of the opinion that good bacteria replaces the bad ones in the intestinal tract, another theory suggests that the friendly bacteria makes the intestinal tract acidic, where bad bacteria can’t survive. We have, in our bodies, 400 different types of good microorganisms that fight infection to keep us healthy.
Clinical studies have shown that probiotics have several health benefits, such as:
- They help to access nutrients like copper, zinc, calcium, iron, phosphorus, etc.
- They help to reduce lactose intolerance, which causes intestinal infections, and provide calcium and vitamin D.
- Certain strains have decreased the rate of acute diarrhea and rotavirus shedding in children.
- Reduction in diaper rash among babies consuming probiotics formula have been observed.
- It helps regulate intestinal transit time, improving cases of constipation and decreasing the possibility of any inflammatory bowel disease.
- It strengthens and enhances immunity by regulating antibodies and lymphocytes.
- It reduces the harmful bacteria pathogens.
- Helps prevent food and skin allergy in children and adults.
- It is known to help prevent premature labor in pregnant women.
- It reduces recurrent ear infection and bladder infection.
- It promotes a good digestive system.
- In women, it reduces the risk of vaginal infections.
- It helps to prevent a leaky gut.
- It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- The probiotic strain acidophilus promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon, reducing the conversion of bile into cancer-causing substances known as carcinogens.
Good Sources of Probiotics
Some sources of probiotic live culture food are as follows:
Greens: Spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass and green leafy vegetables.
Polyphenol-containing food: Green tea, garlic and ginseng.
Cultured dairy products: Yogurt, buttermilk, powdered milk, cottage cheese, different aged cheese, and frozen desserts.
Nondairy fermented foods: Tempeh (fermented soybean product), soy sauce, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), and kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage).
Supplements: Capsules, tablets, and freeze-dried preparations.
Probiotics are living bacteria that benefit our digestive system and overall health. Effects of different strains differ from each other, so it’s best to heed your doctor’s advice on the amount of probiotic required by your body.