Probiotic Foods and Supplements
Probiotics can be defined as live microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeasts, which are consumed for health benefits. For a microbe to be called a probiotic, it must be alive when it is being administered, there must be a documented health benefit associated with it, and it must be administered in the right amount so that it confers the benefit. Probiotics, which are often referred to as good or friendly bacteria, are often eaten in the form of yoghurts or are taken as food supplements.
Probiotics are naturally present in our body and are vital for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Probiotics are typically prescribed by a health care provider when the natural balance of the bacteria present in your gut is disrupted. Probiotic foods and supplements are considered to be helpful in curing irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance. Probiotics when given to premature babies can help in preventing gut diseases.
Probiotic foods and supplements help in replacing the good bacteria in your body when you lose them due to consumption of antibiotics. They also help in lowering the amount of bad bacteria in your body.
Types of Probiotics
There are different types of probiotics depending on the health benefits associated with them. Some common types of probiotics are listed below:
- Lactobacillus: There are more than 50 different types of lactobacilli. Some lactobacilli found in probiotic foods and supplements include Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus plantarium, acidophilus DDS-1, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, and Lactobacillus blugaricus.
- Bifidobacteria: There are about 30 different types of bifidobacteria. The commonly found bifidobacteria include Bifodbacterium lactis, Bifodbacterium bifidum, Bifodbacterium longum, Bifodbacterium infantis, and Bifodbacterium breve.
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Enterococcus faecium
Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics are found in abundance in fermented dairy products. They are found in yoghurt, soft cheeses, sour pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, fermented soybean products such as miso, tempeh, and natto, dark chocolate, and kimchi salad.
Benefits of Probiotic Foods and Supplements
If you have a healthy immune system, probiotic foods and supplements can be extremely useful in curing:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Antibiotic associated diarrhea
- Gut diseases in premature babies
- Lactose intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Vaginal conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Probiotic foods and supplements are also known to boost immunity.
Risks Associated with Probiotic Foods and Supplements
People who have a compromised immune system owing to medical conditions such as cancer need to be cautious while taking probiotic foods and supplements. Elderly people, pregnant women, and children also need to be careful while taking probiotics as their consumption can increase the risk of getting sick. Since probiotics are live microorganisms, care must be taken to do adequate research before consumption to ensure that it will provide the promised health benefits. Moreover, while selecting a probiotic, you need ensure that the strain of bacteria that it has, is best suited for you. Since probiotics contain live microorganisms, you must also pay close attention to the manner in which it is stored. A probiotic will become useless if microorganisms it is supposed to contain are not alive.
- “Probiotics: a role in the treatment of intestinal infection and inflammation?” by E. Isolauri, et al. Published in 2002, Volume 50, Issue Supplement 3 of Gut, accessed on 19 May 2015. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/gut.50.suppl_3.iii54