Probiotics: Promoting Life
Yoghurt and sour milk are constantly sought after by health conscious people nowadays even if the prices are soaring. But what exactly is probiotics?
Probiotics literally means “promoting life.” Probiotics are actually live microorganisms in our body that scientists believe are essential for good health.
Inside our body, especially in our digestive system, a balance between good and bad bacteria is encouraged to ensure optimum health. Without the balance between these bacteria may result to illnesses such as diarrhea, allergies, lactose intolerance, obesity and diabetes.
Probiotics is not a new idea. It was introduced by Elie Metchnikoff of Russia in the early 20th century. His passion about natural science and his personal battle with infectious diseases drove him to closely observe different animal species and also human communities in search for immunity for infectious diseases. This led him to receive a Nobel Prize together with Paul Ehrlich.
Metchnikoff is known to be the “father of probiotics”
Why is probiotics important?
Years before Metchnikoff, a wise physician by the name of Hippocrates, said “All diseases begins in the gut.”
Thousands of years later, Hippocrates seem to be proving himself right all along. An unhealthy digestive system may be linked to diseases like “ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Chron’s disease, obesity and type 1 and 2 diabetes.”
Probiotics help us in two ways.
First, it keeps our digestive tract healthy and helps it eliminate “harmful bacteria, toxins, chemicals and other wastes products.”
Second, probiotics influences our immune system. Without probiotics, our immune system may not be able to protect us from germs that may cause allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, and infections. We may be at risk of contracting ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diarrhea, skin and vaginal infections.
An unbalance may be due to genetics, age and diet. We may not be able to control what’s in our genes or stop ageing but we can definitely control what we eat.
Emotional stress, sleep deprivation, overuse of antibiotic and other drugs, and other environmental influences may also affect the balance between the good and bad bacteria. Still, you may easily control these stressors in your body.
Types of probiotics
For the longest time, there were only two groups of probiotics identified the popular Lactobacillus and Bifidobactirium. New techniques made it possible for scientists to find more kinds of probiotics present in our body and more importantly, what they actually do inside our digestive tract.
Lactobacili are found in the digestive, urinary and genital systems. Its more than 50 species are used to treat and prevent several diseases.
Fermented foods are a rich source of lactobacilli which works to prevent and treat yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and urinary tract infection. It can also aid people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, antibiotic-related diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, diarrhea resulting from clostridium difficile.
Those with fever blisters, eczema, acne and canker sores may also benefit from lactobacilli.
This wonder bacteria may even prevent respiratory infections.
Bifidobacteria appear in the intestinal tract after birth especially for breastfed infants. These bacteria are mostly found in the colon and its flourishing population is a good sign of intestinal health.
These bacteria are great for alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and improve its symptoms. It also improves blood lipids and glucose tolerance.
- Saccharomyces boulardii
S. boulardii is a yeast probiotic. It can help treat diarrhea due to antibiotic use and traveler’s diarrhea as well.
This one and only yeast probiotic also prevents c. difficile and decrease the side effect of cure for H. pylori.
This probiotic can also treat acne.
- Streptococcus thermophiles
Prevents lactose intolerance in humans.
- Enterococcus faecium
Found in both human and animal intestinal tract.
Used in food processing
Foods rich in probiotics
Sour milk led to the discovery of probiotics. Fortunately, there are other foods in the market that is rich in probiotics, these are usually fermented foods.
A type of dairy product that is most ideal as it has both bacteria and yeast. Kefir maybe fermented cow, goat or sheep milk or made of coconut, rice or soy. A gelatinous white or yellow particle called “grains” are actually added in the milk and ferments it.
The grains are removed before drinking the tarty but refreshing kefir.
A staple in Korean tables. Kimchi is usually a fermented Chinese cabbage or radish. The different bacteria found in this healthy side dish are linked to be prevent cancer, obesity, and constipation and colon problems.
It is also reportedly link to cholesterol reduction and is a great antioxidant, and antiaging.
Kimchi is said to also promote brain health, strong immune system and healthy skin.
The spicy kimchi can also be made of scallion, cucumber and seafood.
The most popular probiotic food is great for the digestive tract. It is known to decrease the risk of gastrointestinal diseases.
It can also benefit people with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, allergies and respiratory diseases.
It may also improve lactose intolerance in children, dental and bone health.
Sweet acidophilus milk is simply milk with probiotics namely L. acidophilus and L. acidophilus plus bifidobacteria.
It is said to be good for your digestive tract and genital region.
It may likely be effective for children with diarrhea due to rotavirus and other forms of diarrhea. May also help with colic, vaginal infections and irritable bowel syndrome.
Other foods that may have probiotics are: miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, aged soft cheese, sourdough bread, sour pickles, gundruk, sinki, khalpi, inziangsang, and soidonis. However, these foods do not have enough research on their effectiveness.
Wait, it has to be synbiotic too
Before you grab those probiotics-rich food make sure your body will absorb it well.
Probiotics need prebiotic. When these two combine, it creates a “synergistic effect” or synbiotics.
Prebiotics serve as the food for your good bacteria. You can get prebiotics from:
- sugar beet
- sugarcane juice
- Bamboo shoots
Aside from feeding your probiotics, prebiotics also prevent you from having enteritis and constipation, irritable bowel disease, and some cancers.
It can also alleviate allergic inflammation and treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Prebiotics also fights immune deficiency diseases and may help increase calcium absorption for adolescents and pregnant women.
There is even growing data about its positive effects for people with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Studies found that food with prebiotics may influence a person’s “energy homeostasis, satiety regulation, and body weight gain.”
The full effects of probiotics can only be fully felt if the microorganism should:
- Survive the process of food manufacturing
- Grow and survive the “ripening and storage period”
- Bacteria should not affect product quality negatively.
- survive the “passage through the gastrointestinal tract.”
Without these successfully happening, probiotics will not be able to influence the body at all.
It may be a little difficult to take in the probiotics you need and challenging to know if you still have the “ideal” situation for your probiotics to thrive in your products. Whatever the case, supplements may play an important role for your diet.
Know that supplements are not monitored in the US (if you are from the US). It is not the FDA’s responsibility to check the ingredients’ safety but the manufacturer’s. So be sure to check the ingredients yourself and buy only from trusted brands.
Probiotics provide great health benefit. Whether through food or supplement, it is still best to consult your doctor first especially for use of pregnant women, children, elderly and those whose immune system is already compromised. Although side effects, if any, are mild, use of probiotics of people with compromised immune system may cause more harm.
In the end, healthy food is still best for a healthy and happy life. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
© 2016 MangBerto08