What are Probiotics?

The discovery of probiotics and its benefits have often been hailed as the most important breakthrough in the field of natural healing. There has been a steady increase in the number of people who are opting for probiotic supplements so much so that from 1994 to 2003 there was an astounding three fold increase in the spending on probiotics supplements in the US alone. This conspicuous increase in the number of probiotic users goes a long way in proving its extraordinary health benefits

What are Probiotics?

According to the WHO (World Health Organization) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, probiotics are living microorganisms which when administered in correct doses can provide remarkable heath benefits. Microorganisms are essentially microscopic natural organisms like yeast, virus and bacteria.

Probiotics vs. PreBiotics

Probiotics and Prebiotics are different from each other with the latter being types of non-digestible food ingredients that facilitate the growth and activity of bowel microorganisms. However, both prebiotics and probiotics are natural microorganisms that help in improving digestive health.

Natural Sources of Probiotics

Studies carried out by several eminent bodies have proved beyond a doubt the efficacy of probiotics in overall health improvement. Fortunately for us, probiotics can be naturally found in several food items that we consume. As a matter of fact, it is often believed that cultured milk products and fermented food were introduced in ancient times to harness the health benefits achieved through the probiotic content in these food items. Probiotics provide a natural and gentle solution to most of our digestive and gastric problems. Some of the common sources of probiotics include miso, yoghurt, soy beverages, fermented and unfermented milk, some juices and tempeh

 

What types of bacteria are classified as probiotics?

The microorganisms classified as probiotics are similar to the bacteria found in the digestive system. Research has indicated that there are two primary groups of this bowel fauna: Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. There are different species in these two groups and each species in further bifurcated into different varieties or strains.

How do Probiotics Help?

We have an integral relationship with bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms; they live on the human skin, in the digestive system and the various orifices of the body. While some microorganisms like E-Coli can prove detrimental to health there are others which are a vital part of the body’s natural defense system. So it would not be incorrect to state that there exists a healthy balance between the bad and the good bacteria in the body. But this balance can be thrown awry in two scenarios

When antibiotics are administered, antibiotics kill bacteria, virus and other microorganisms without distinguishing between the good and the bad. This in turn can cause digestive problems like diarrhea, cramping and gas. In this case, probiotics can offset the effect of antibiotics by introducing good bowel fauna into the system. The same also hold true in case of lactose intolerance a condition caused due to the lack of an essential enzyme needed for the digestion of lactose, once again probiotic supplements can come to the rescue because the bacterial strain can help in digestion.

Bad microorganisms like yeast, fungi, virus and bacteria that cause diseases can also upset the balance of bacteria in the body but probiotics can help to restore the balance after a parasitic attack.

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