Probiotics – What you need to know about them
Probiotics – What you need to know about them

Recently, there has been a lot of hype on the role of probiotics in promoting health. Almost everyone with a digestive problem is prescribed probiotics. They are essentially bacteria which are good for your health. Probiotics contain good bacteria that are very similar to the bacteria found in the human gut. Certain types of bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacteria are present in the intestinal flora and the gut lining.

The lower digestive tract is home to complex and varied strains of healthy bacteria that are more in number than the cells in one’s body. These healthy bacteria help with digestion of food and also enhance immunity against infections.

What are probiotics made of?
They are foods that contain bacterial strains having similar properties as the healthy bacteria present in the intestinal lining. FDA regulations treat probiotics as foods and not medications.

Probiotic foods
Infection of the intestinal tract or consumption of an unhealthy diet that destroys healthy bacteria in the gut generates more “bad” bacteria than “good” bacteria. This imbalance may lead to weight gain, diarrhea, constipation, and other chronic health conditions. Probiotics are prescribed to restore the balance.

Popular natural foods containing probiotics are as follows:

  • Certain yogurts
    Yogurt is the most popular source of probiotics. Yogurt is known to ease out lactose intolerance. Other digestive issues like diarrhea, gastric trouble, and constipation can be eased out by consuming yogurt.
  • Some types of cheese
    Fermented cheese like Gouda is loaded with probiotics. Compared with other types of cheese, Gouda cheese is robust enough to retain probiotics all through the journey from the stomach to intestines.
  • Sourdough bread
    This bread packs consist of probiotics that enhance digestion.
  • Sauerkraut
    The unpasteurized type of sauerkraut is the best way to retain good bacteria in sauerkraut. Pasteurization process kills the good bacteria, hence, unpasteurized sauerkraut is the best source of probiotics.
  • Kefir
    This is milk that has been fermented into a beverage. Kefir is a thick, creamy, sour yogurt-like drink containing strains of bacteria and helpful yeast varieties.
  • Kimchi
    This is a spicy Korean dish that is full of immunity-boosting vitamins. These vitamins help in fighting infections.
  • Miso Soup
    This a popular Japanese breakfast dish consisting of fermented soybean paste. This is low in calories but loaded with Vitamin B and antioxidants.
  • Sour pickles
    Pickles that have been naturally fermented without using vinegar are a treasure trove of good bacteria.
  • Tempeh
    Fermented soybeans are used as a base for making this Indonesian patty. Apart from being rich in probiotics, this food is a rich source of protein.

Probiotics are also available as supplements. Consuming probiotic supplements is ideal if one wants to ensure an abundant supply of probiotics in the diet. Dietary supplements that are labeled as “Live and Active Culture” are the best choice of probiotics. As many as 100 million active cultures are present per gram of yogurt

What are probiotics made up of?
Different types of bacteria are considered as probiotics. Each type provides different benefits to the immune system. Choice of probiotics should be made based on a consultation with a doctor.

What are the types of probiotics?
The following are the types of probiotics:

  • Lactobacillus
    This is the most common form of probiotics. Types of yogurt and fermented foods contain this type of bacteria. They are useful in treating diarrhea in those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Bifidobacterium
    Dairy products contain this type of bacteria. This is useful for easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders.
  • Saccharomyces boulardii
    This is a type of yeast found in probiotics. This probiotic bacterium helps in recovery from digestive problems and diarrhea.

What are the benefits of Probiotics?
There are numerous benefits of including probiotics in the diet. Some of the benefits are as follows:

  • Help in restoring the balance of good bacteria in the body
    Probiotics contain live microorganisms that promote good health. They are absolutely safe to consume and help in replenishing good bacteria lost by the body.
  • Beneficial in treating diarrhea
    The severity of diarrhea is mitigated to a large extent through probiotics. They have the ability to prevent diarrhea caused by infections or taking antibiotics.
  • Mental health
    There is a link between gut health and mental health. Both animal and human studies show that consumption of probiotics improves mental health.
  • Heart health
    Certain strains of probiotics can keep the heart healthy by lowering bad cholesterol.
  • Allergies and eczema
    The severity of eczema and allergies in infants and children can be reduced through probiotic foods.
  • Boost immunity
    Probiotics are known to boost the immune system and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria.

The role of probiotics is restoring intestinal health. The various health disorders that can be treated through probiotics are irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, urinary and vaginal health, oral health, infectious diarrhea, and allergies.

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