Table of Contents
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics comprise organisms such as bacteria and yeast that are live and provide unique benefits to the body, specifically the digestive system. A number of such organisms are already present in our body and the digestive system has about 500 types of bacteria.
Most digestive disorders happen when the balance of these helpful or good bacteria within our digestive system gets disturbed. In such cases, taking foods that are rich in probiotics helps in restoring the balance of bacteria in our bodies.
Probiotics are naturally available in certain foods and they can also be taken as supplements. The foods that are contain probiotics include yogurt, some specific kinds of juices, soy drinks, some varieties of soft cheese, fermented and unfermented milk, pickles, kim chi, and miso.
Probiotics can also be consumed in the form of supplements available as capsules, liquid extracts, powders, and tablets. The supplemental forms of probiotics can be purchased from vitamin shops and health and natural food stores. Probiotics are also available in the form of infant formulas and snack bars.
Any of these forms of probiotics can be effective provided they contain adequate numbers of these good microorganisms. While selecting the right probiotic, look for the information provided on the labels to find out about the names of the microorganisms and how many microorganisms does a single dose contain.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics assist in keeping us healthy by:
- Replacing the good bacteria in our body that have been lost due to the intake of antibiotics.
- Reducing the bad bacteria (that can cause inflammation or infections) from our digestive tract.
- Restoring the balance between the good and the bad bacteria in our body.
The key health benefits of probiotics are listed below:
- Probiotics assist in the digestion of food. Probiotics are very helpful in the prevention and cure of various gastrointestinal infections such as gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
- They are useful in the prevention of antibiotic related diarrhea and other side effects associated with antibiotic therapy.
- Probiotics boost our immune system.
- Probiotics are found to be useful in increasing our lactose tolerance.
- They are beneficial in improving the symptoms associated with the irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics such as Bifidobacterium infantis are very effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Probiotics are useful in protecting us against bacterial infections. Lactobacillus salivarius is very useful in the treatment of Listeria infection.
- Probiotics are very helpful in the treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a type of infection associated with the inflammation of intestines in infants.
- A recent study has shown that probiotics are also useful in lowering the blood levels of bad cholesterol naturally. Fermented milk that contains strains of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) can be helpful in lowering blood pressure.
- Probiotics can also enhance the brain function. A study conducted by researchers at the UCLA found that the brain function improved significantly in healthy women who consumed probiotics yoghurt on a regular basis.
Probiotics are useful not only in the treatment and prevention of digestive tract disorders but they also play a vital role in the treatment of skin infections such as eczema in children, allergies and asthma, joint stiffness, and sleeping disorders. Research also suggests that the regular consumption of probiotics might also lower the risk of developing cancer.