What are Probiotics – Benefits and Best Sources of Probiotics

what is probiotics

Probiotics are the good-for-you microorganisms residing in your body to help you function well. Present in your digestive tract, these are microorganisms that help you in digestion, fending off diseases and can also create vitamins. They are closely related to microbiome, a term that refers the microscopic world in the gut that scientists are studying rigorously. With each passing day, new health effects are linked to the environment of bad and good bacteria.

If you are not aware of what is probiotics, this blog is a must read for you as we have brought you all the information about the effective microorganism present in your body, about which you hardly know.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms residing in your digestive tract and helps you in various ways unknown to us humans. There’s a lot for scientists to discover, but the hundreds of studies on probiotics conclude that they have some functional uses like:

  • Supporting immunity
  • Controlling inflammation
  • Encouraging health and maintenance of the cell lining if your digestive tract

These findings are just the onset to carry out more extensive studies on the microorganism.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Probiotics is a ‘living for life’ nutrient that is the foundation of your health. It helps in treating and preventing a wide range of diseases in your digestive health area, oral disease, different types of cancer, eczema d food allergies.

Let’s have a look on the benefits of probiotics.

Improves digestive health

Using probiotics can reduce the problems of diarrhea caused as a result of antibiotics, hospital infections and cancer treatment. Bacteria strains if lactobacillus and streptococcus can help reduce the symptoms of diarrhea. However, the paper of March 2016 published in e International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences showed that doctors believe in using yeast strains like Saccharomyces boulardii to prevent diarrhea.

If you notice production of bad gas due to milk, you probably have lactose intolerant, which shows up due to the deficiency in enzyme lactase. But the good news is that lactose indigestion can be controlled with probiotics. According to some studies, probiotics we use to make yogurt releases lactase, which interferes with your body’s responsibility of lactose digestion.

If the problem of gassiness is not a result of lactose intolerance or recurrent diarrhea, you may be a target of a condition called IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It is a default diagnosis used to explain digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. As per some studies, probiotics can help controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

One must not confuse IBS with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), a more serious disease of digestive tract. It is a kind of autoimmune condition categorized under chronic inflammation.

There are three types of IBD – Ulcerative Colitis (UC), Crohn’s Disease (CD) and Indeterminate Colitis (IC). Following the results of clinical trials, probiotics can be a great therapy for ulcerative colitis.

However IC and CD doesn’t show similar therapeutic effect.

Play a significant role in cancer prevention and immunity

There have been a lot of research on the possible effects of using probiotics on immunity and cancer. The research involved laboratory studies on LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria). In most studies, the probiotic suggests a decrease in the enzyme activity of bacteria that develop cancer cells, potentially minimizing the risk of bladder cancer, liver and colon.

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Both probiotics and prebiotics influence the total immunological network in your body. Consuming probiotics when pregnant can reduce the baby’s risk of any kind of allergic symptoms, such as nasal congestion, skin rashes and watery eyes.

As per the findings of a review published in the Pediatric Research journal in January 2015, probiotics can also control the incidents of various chronic digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease and ulcerative colitis.

Improves oral health

Probiotics benefits your digestive tract right from the start. It starts from the mouth where plaque, a harmful bacteria can possibly decrease by probiotics. In a controlled trial of January 2013 published in Dentistry and Medical Research journal, researchers made three groups of 30 children each, in a age range of 13 to 15. The first group got a mouth disinfectant, second group got a probiotic mouth wash and third group got a placebo. The probiotic mouth wash contained Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Saccharomycus boulardii and Bifidobacterium longum. After a duration of two months, the group with probiotic mouth wash showed maximum reduction in the volume of plaque and gingivitis risk.

Consuming probiotics can also help in preventing cavities, as the root cause of cavities is streptococci bacteria on the surface of the tooth. It can also protect your teeth by decreasing the pH levels. The higher pH levels develop an acidic environment in your mouth which leads to cavities.

Prevents food allergies

Probiotics can help in preventing food allergies. In a review published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in October 2015, researchers indicated that probiotics can help prevent eczema in children, which is a potential risk factor of food allergies. Researchers gave probiotics to pregnant or breastfeeding mothers to see these surprising results.

Note: Infant eczema is not always a signal of food allergy and could just be the result of seasonal allergy or dry skin.

Fermented dairy products are rich in probiotics, but they are also one of the main food allergens. So, the foods containing probiotics cannot prevent allergies in people who are already affected by the condition. Like if you are allergic to dairy products, the probiotic content in it will also not help you relieve the symptoms.

However, you can always opt for probiotic sources apart from dairy products. Non-dairy fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh are good example of probiotic foods.

Helps in weight loss

Although there’s no strong evidence to support the fact that probiotics can help in weight loss, there is a positive chance depending on the few studies performed by researchers in the last few years.

In October 2017, a study published in the Journal Cell & Bioscience showed that controlling inflammation can reduce insulin resistance, fat accumulation and type 2 diabetes.

There’s also a meta-analysis and review published in Genes journal in March 2018. The study showed that probiotics is related to decrease in BMI (Body Mass Index), fat, weight with a probiotic dose of minimum 30 billion for at least 3 months.

However, it requires further study to prove the role of probiotics in controlling obesity and promoting weight loss.

What are the best sources of probiotics?

There are some food groups that contain healthy bacteria naturally undergoing a process of lactic acid fermentation. This happens when the bacteria converts carbohydrates into lactic acid, increasing the bacterial count. Foods that are good source of probiotics include:

  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Fermented cheeses, such as buttermilk cheese and cottage cheese
  • Kimchi
  • Raw sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Natto
  • Lacto-fermented vegetables, such as pickles

How to choose the right probiotic supplements?

When you go to the supermarket for a probiotic supplement, do take care of the following things to ensure you buy a quality product:

Read the label: Before buying a probiotic supplement, do not forget to read the label to find if it contains any ingredients that you don’t like or are allergic to. You can talk to your healthcare expert for the list of ingredients you should avoid, specially food allergens.

Be choosy: Discuss with your healthcare expert to know what kind of probiotic supplement will work best for your health concerns. For example, a blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria can help treating IBS, while Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG can combat the problems of diarrhea.

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Practice caution: You must understand that the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Association) doesn’t review all the dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before marketing. So, you need to go through their tips for various dietary supplement users.

Note: If you are suffering from a disease or have a weak immune system, seek your doctor’s advice while choosing the right probiotic supplement. If you are already sick, taking probiotics can lead to serious infections.

Dosage recommendation for probiotics

The dosage of taking probiotics depends on factors like if you want to take probiotics for a healthy lifestyle or as a treatment of a particular health issue. If your concern is general health, 1-2 million CFUs (Colony-forming units) is a suggested dosage. Several studies conclude that when you are taking probiotics for the treatment of problems like infectious diarrhea or IBS, doctors suggest 5 billion CFUs for children in a day and more than 10 billion CFUs for adults (per day). Talk to your doctor to get an idea of the recommended dosage of probiotics for you.

What is the difference between Probiotics, Synbiotics and Prebiotics?

Probiotics are foods or supplements consisting live microorganisms in large amounts that helps in producing health benefits beyond basic nutrition.

On the contrary, prebiotic is known as a non-digestible food item that encourages the growth of bacteria activity in the colon. In easy words, prebiotic encourages the growth of probiotic. You can easily understand the difference by referring to the spelling of both the words ‘prebiotic’ and ‘probiotic’. The ‘pre’ in ‘Prebiotic’ means ‘before’. Some examples of prebiotic are dietary fibers such as fructtligosaccharides and inulin.

Synbiotics are products that consists both prebiotics and probiotics. The prefix ‘syn’ in ‘Synbiotic’ is taken from the words ‘Synergy’. It is because the prebiotic works is a beneficial way to create probiotoc. An example of symbiotic is Lactobacilli strain that encourages the development of Bifidobacteria in gut, both having immune system benefits.

FAQs about probiotics

What’s another way of consuming probiotics if I don’t like or I am allergic to fermented foods?

You can take a fiber-rich diet, which is prebiotic and it can lead to probiotic growth in your gut. You can also ask your healthcare expert to suggest a probiotic supplement.

What is better – Probiotic supplements or Probiotic foods?

Usually, the body get most benefits from consuming foods rich in probiotics, which also contains nutrients. But, if you are looking forward to consuming probiotic to treat a disease, probiotic supplements are a better option. According to a paper in the journal Biochemistry & Pharmacology published in September 2017, probiotic supplements have higher amount of strains which can be more effective in treating certain diseases.

When should I take a probiotic supplement – before, during or after meals?

You can extract maximum benefits from probiotics by consuming them half an hour before your meal or while eating. Take probiotics while having your food or drink containing fat, as probiotics are fat soluble and can help absorb them well.

Can I take too many probiotics?

The answer to this is the scientists are not very sure. When eaten in form of food, the risk of overdose of probiotics is low. However some strains can potentially overgrow and lead to infections. So, it is important to have a word with your doctor before buying probiotic supplement for the treatment for an infection or disease. If you have an immune system disorder, have cardiac valve disease, central venous catheters, short bowel syndrome or are a premature infant, bacterial overgrowth can get more risky.

What is the best kind of probiotic for my health?

Researchers are yet to find this. Most studies talk about the bacterial strains of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus and the Saccharomycus boularddi strains. However, you should talk to your health expert before choosing one.

Can I consume probiotics with antibiotics?

Almost all the antibiotics can result in antibiotic-associated diarrhea, but mainly:

  • Cephalosporins, such as Ancef, Rocephin and Keflex
  • Penicillins, such as Zosyn (tazobactam and piperacillin), Amoxil (amoxicillin) and Augmentin (amoxicillin and clavulanate pottasium)

Having probiotics when on an antibiotic can help prevent diarrhea by balancing the amount of good bacteria the antibiotic killed.

In a nutshell

Probiotics are live microorganisms living in your digestive tracts helping in digestion, prevents several diseases and creates vitamins. Probiotics are useful for various purposes like controlling inflammation, supporting immunity and encouraging health of your digestive tract. If not through foods, you can take probiotics in form of supplements. However, make sure you choose the right supplement after having a word with your healthcare expert.


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