Probiotics are small organisms also called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria”, these are live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts present a health benefit on the host. Probiotics help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff, known as the “father of probiotics,” proposed that ingesting microorganisms could have substantial health benefits for humans. Scientists are continuously investigating benefits of probiotics, the concept and the term “probiotics” meaning “for life” is eventually being used universally.
Sources of Probiotics
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics, certain yeasts and bacilli may also be helpful. Probiotics are available to users mainly in fermented foods (yogurt, soy yogurt) and dietary supplements.
- Yogurt. Yogurt or yoghurt or yoghourt is a fermented milk product made by the natural bacterial fermentation of milk.
- Soy yogurt. Soy yogurt is made by fermenting soymilk with friendly bacteria, mainly Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
- Soy Milk. Soy naturally contains some probiotic benefits, but new soy milk products on the market have added extra live cultures
- Certain yeasts. Yeast is also a probiotic substance. Saccharomyces boulardii is beneficial yeast used as a probiotic agent.
- Kombucha Tea. Kombucha tea is a dark tea that has been found to increase energy and help with the stomach’s natural digestion. Try it hot or iced.
- Miso Soup. miso soup is a tofu and vegetable broth soup that’s low in calories and high in probiotics and protein.
- Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains probiotics and antioxidants to keep your stomach healthy
- Blue Algae or Microalgae. Blue algae or microalgae are a grassy, green plant that’s often used in juices.
- Kimchi. Kimchi is fermented and pickled cabbage that can be very spicy. Filled with vitamins, calcium, and probiotics
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Health effects are being explored and some of the health benefits are as follows, however, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most conditions is lacking:-
- Easing of Chronic Intestinal Inflammatory Diseases
- Prevention and Treatment of Pathogen-Induced Diarrhea. Lactobacillus acidophilus might enhance the effects of a vaccine against rotavirus infection, common cause of infectious diarrhea in infants and children.
- Urogenital Infections
- Atopic Diseases
- Keeps digestive healthy
- Boosts immune system
- Gastrointestinal conditions such as infectious diarrhea, diarrhea associated with using antibiotics,
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Strain of Lactobacillus reuteri might slow the growth of certain tumors
Concerns about Probiotics
- FDA has not approved any health claims for probiotics.
- Most people do not experience side effects from probiotics or have only mild gastrointestinal side effects such as gas.
- There are concerns about the quality of probiotic products and supplements available in market. Some products have been found to contain smaller numbers of live microorganisms than expected. In addition, some products have been found to contain bacterial strains other than those listed as ingredients.