Probiotics are living microorganisms that boost health when consumed in adequate amounts. There are many different types and you can obtain them from foods or supplements.
In greek, “pro” means “for” and “biotic” means “life”.
The term probiotic refers to dietary supplements (tablets, capsules, powders, lozenges and gums) and foods (such as yogurt and other fermented products) that contain “beneficial” or “friendly” bacteria. The organisms themselves are also called probiotics.
What is the purpose of probiotics?
Everyone has there own unique microbiome. A microbiome is the community of micro-organisms living together in a particular habitat. Humans, animals and plants have their own unique microbiomes, but so do soils, oceans and even buildings. In humans, our microbiome can have both helpful microorganisms (priobiotics), microorganisms that do not cause disease but don’t help us and harmful microorganisms that cause symptoms and diseases.
With 80% of our immune system cells living in our gastrointestinal tract, a strong immune system begins with a healthy gut. Probiotic supplements are a quick and easy way to keep your immune system on track because they deliver a large dose of live, good bacteria directly to your gastrointestinal tract, supporting the balance of your immune response at its core. This beneficial bacteria colonizes and quickly gets to work helping you stay well.
Probiotics have numerous advantageous functions in human organisms. Their main advantage is the effect on the development of the microbiota inhabiting the organism in the way ensuring proper balance between pathogens and the bacteria that are necessary for a normal function of the organism. Live microorganisms meeting the applicable criteria are used in the production of functional food and in the preservation of food products. Their positive effect is used for the restoration of natural microbiota after antibiotic therapy. Another function is counteracting the activity of pathogenic intestinal microbiota, introduced from contaminated food and environment. Therefore, probiotics may effectively inhibit the development of pathogenic bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli, various species of Shigella, Staphylococcus and Yersinia, thus preventing food poisoning. A positive effect of probiotics on digestion processes, treatment of food allergies, candidoses, and dental caries has been confirmed. Probiotic microorganisms such as Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, and Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum are natural producers of B group vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B8, B9, B12). They also increase the efficiency of the immunological system, enhance the absorption of vitamins and mineral compounds, and stimulate the generation of organic acids and amino acids, Probiotic microorganisms may also be able to produce enzymes, such as esterase, lipase, and co-enzymes A, Q, NAD, and NADP. Some products of probiotics’ metabolism may also show antibiotic (acidophiline, bacitracin, lactacin), anti-cancerogenic, and immunosuppressive properties.
What happens when probiotics are low?
When things go wrong in the balance of intestinal organisms, the consequences can be tremendous. Negative changes in the intestinal microbiome are firmly associated with chronic diseases that include inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and the metabolic syndrome. We now recognize that allergic disorders, asthma, and even obesity are also related to an unhealthy population of intestinal bacteria.
Due to modern diets and lifestyle, as well as environmental factors such as pollution and the irresponsible overuse of antibiotics, the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome is at risk which can lead to an increased incidence in metabolic and inflammatory chronic diseases. Even simple aging gradually shifts your intestinal bacterial population towards a disease-promoting, rather than a disease-preventing, state.
What are prebiotics and synbiotics?
The prebiotic comes before and helps the probiotic, and then the two can combine to have a synergistic effect, known as synbiotics. A prebiotic is actually a nondigestible carbohydrate that acts as food for the probiotics and bacteria in your gut. The definition of the effect of prebiotics is the selective stimulation of growth and/or activities of one or a limited number of microbial species in the gut microbiota that confer health benefits to the host. The health benefits have been suggested to include acting as a remedy for gastrointestinal complications such as enteritis, constipation, and irritable bowel disease; prevention and treatment of various cancers; decreasing allergic inflammation; treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and fighting immune deficiency diseases. There has also been research showing that the dietary intake of particular food products with a prebiotic effect has been shown, especially in adolescents, but also tentatively in postmenopausal women, to increase calcium absorption as well as bone calcium accretion and bone mineral density. The benefits for obesity and type 2 diabetes are growing as recent data, both from experimental models and from human studies, have shown particular food products with prebiotics have influences on energy homeostasis, satiety regulation, and body weight gain.
Most of the prebiotics identified are oligosaccharides. They are resistant to the human digestive enzymes that work on all other carbohydrates. This means that they pass through the upper GI system without being digested. They then get fermented in the lower colon and produce short-chain fatty acids that will then nourish the beneficial microbiota that live there. Oligosaccharides can be synthesized or obtained from natural sources. These sources include asparagus, artichoke, bamboo shoots, banana, barley, chicory, leeks, garlic, honey, lentils, milk, mustards, onion, rye, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane juice, tomato, wheat, and yacón. The health benefits from these oligosaccharides is a topic of ongoing research.
What are the therapeutic roles of probiotics?
What are the benefits of taking probiotics? Bacteria have a reputation for causing disease, so the idea of tossing down a few billion a day for your health might seem — literally and figuratively — hard to swallow.
Studies have shown probiotic supplementation to be effective for the following gastrointestinal conditions:
Antibiotic associated diarrhea
Clostidium dificile diarrhea
Helicobacter pylori infection
Irritable bowel syndrome
Are probiotics dangerous?
Probiotics already reside in the human body, so conventional wisdom should tell us that taking a probiotic supplements should be safe. However, there are instances where that may not be true.
Probiotic supplements can initiate an allergic reaction when you begin taking them. This is usually characterized by gas bloating and diarrhea. This usually goes away after the first week. This is fairly common.
People with immune deficiency, who are critically ill or have had recent surgery should probably not take probiotic supplements.
Children and pregnant women should always consult with there doctor prior to starting any new medicine or supplement and that includes probiotic supplements.
Foods that have natural probiotics
Kimchi: A fermented Korean vegetable dish with strains of lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus brevi, which helps heal your gut and might even promote weight loss.
Sauerkraut: “Rich in bacteria that boosts your immune system and healthy gut flora. The bacteria on the cabbage leaves ferment the natural sugars into lactic acid. Sauerkraut is also high in vitamin C.”
Kombucha: Fermented with bacteria and yeast known as SCOBY. Kombucha can prevent too much candida yeast in the gut, promotes digestion, and the influx of good bacteria
Whole fat, organic, or grass-fed yogurt: Full of bacteria that help the gut. The microbes in yogurt alter the lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy, allowing the milk to thicken and the lactic acid to build up. It’s best to avoid sugary yogurts and buy the plain flavor with live active cultures.
Kefir: Can reduce bloating and gas that is brought on by consuming dairy. The bacteria in this fermented milk drink have been found to colonize in the intestinal tract, which gives healing benefits to the gut.
Miso: The fungus in miso, like the soup you get at a Japanese restaurant or the paste you find in supermarkets, stimulates the digestive system and supports the immune system
There are many probiotics available, but not all have the ingredients that you need. Probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so the ingredients may be inaccurate. Also, since probiotics are frequently viewed as a natural or healthy alternative to prescription medicines, certain companies prey on desperate patients by making an expensive product that is not very effective. I recommend sticking to ones that I have found to be legitimate and effective. They are listed below.
On a final note, do not get caught up in the number of billions of colony forming units. More is not necessarily better. Stick with the probiotics above or make sure you know you’re getting what you’re paying for.