Probiotic, literally means promoting life. These are good food which supports life – bacteria – considered good for human body. Yes, not all bacteria are bad. Human body is an ecosystem for various bacteria, some bacteria live in body and causes harm. While some bacteria while staying in body produces byproducts which are helpful to body. Such symbiotic – living together – bacteria should be encouraged in body.
Maximum symbiotic bacteria live in our intestine. They assist in important functions like helping digestion, manufacturing vitamins or amino acids, removing toxins, increasing immunity. This bacterial ecosystem in intestine is often termed as Gut Flora. It is estimated that around 500 different species of bacteria inhabit our gut, to number of about 100 trillion bacteria. That is a number several times greater than the number of cells in a human body. Eating probiotic food or probiotic supplement supplies body with good bacteria and maintains their healthy proportion in human intestine.
Health Benefits of probiotics
The benefits of probiotics are being studied in various researches. Probiotics are considered dietary supplements, if bacterial cultures are taken. Some natural fermented products contain probiotic cultures, like yogurt, fermented kefir and soy yogurt. Probiotics are usually taken with anti-biotics, or after an intestinal infection, to treat diarrhea, abdominal pains, cramps and indigestion.
Probiotics help digestion
A large quantity of our food mainly dietary fibers and complex carbohydrates are not digested in our digestive tract. Gut flora helps in digestion of these substances and break them into absorbable nutrients. Probiotics thus helps in fermentation of undigested food in intestine so that they can be easily absorbed.
Gut Flora benefits in synthesis of vitamin
Some intestinal bacteria synthesizes vitamin B, Vitamin K, sterols and other substance as byproduct during their stay in intestine, which are of nutritional benefit to our body. Taking probiotics ensures a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut flora, which produce vitamins.
Treating Diarrhea with probiotics
Some probiotics have shown to be effective in treating diarrhea. Taking anti-biotics can cause problems with the digestive tract by killing the beneficial bacteria that normally inhabit the gut. This can cause several problems, one of them being diarrhea. The imbalance in the gut flora can be treated with probiotics. Probiotics have also been shown to be effective in regulating stool consistency, and contributing to a normal stool frequency.
Probiotics for Constipation
How many times have you noticed that if you are on antibiotic medication your bowel movements are affected? Constipation is common side effect of antibiotic medications. Probiotics helps in bowel movements and thus can treat constipation.
Probiotics good for people with lactose intolerance
Some probiotics have shown to be effective in reducing the stressful reaction experienced by people with lactose intolerance taking dairy products which contain lactose. Lactose intolerance causes people to experience cramps, gasses and diarrhea. Taking regular probiotics helps populate the gut with bacteria that partially digests lactose, and can help prevent these symptoms.
Probiotics to prevent ulcers
Taking probiotics can help combat Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria which is believed to cause ulcers. This has yet to be confirmed by experiments, but it is possible that the beneficial bacteria may somehow inhibit the growth of helicobacter in the digestive tract.
Proboitics for chronic gastrointestinal disease
Human intestine is home to complex community of microbes which play important role in body metabolism. Disturbance in this ecosystem results in gastrointestinal troubles including inflammatory bowel disease. Research has showed that manipulation of gut flora is medicinal uses in treating chronic gastrointestinal disease. Some probiotics have shown the ability to lessen the symptoms of bowel inflammations such as irritable bowel syndrome. The exact mechanisms of this have not yet been determined, but the results show that taking regular probiotics can help reduce the inflammation.
Probiotic bacteria helps control cholesterol absorption
Certain studies have shown that prociotics can help lower blood cholesterol levels. They do this most likely by populating the gut with bacteria that can digest and dissolve bile, which normally gets re-absorbed in the gut and enters the blood as cholesterol. This can help maintain a healthy balance of good and bad cholesterol.
Probiotics health benefit – Lower blood pressure
Probiotics may, although studies have yet to definitely confirm this, help lower the blood pressure by activating certain protein mechanisms in the gut.
Probiotics benefit to the immune system
Probiotics may benefit the immune system in several ways. It populates the gut with beneficial bacteria, which then compete with bacteria that may be harmful for our health, by literally taking food and living space from them. This helps combat harmful bacteria, and aids the immune system in removing them. Taking probiotics has also been shown to increase certain immune factors, and thereby contribute to the overall strength of the immune system. It can reduce the chances of getting all kinds of infections, ranging from lung infections to caries. And lastly, some of the beneficial bacteria have their own means of combating potential pathogens, and some have been shown to secrete certain compounds that kill some viruses and thereby help combat virus-caused diarrhea, like stomach flu.
Probiotics to treat Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
According to a research, Probiotics assist treatment of people with urinary tract infections. Probiotics consumption creates pockets of good bacteria and prevents harmful bacterial from invading urinary tract. Probiotics regular consumption can reduce frequency of urinary tract infections.
Probiotics good for allergies
A research has indicated that consumption of Probiotics by pregnant woman reduces chances of allergies childhood eczema considerably. Study is focused on benefits of probiotic bacteria on immune system and prevention of allergies. One theory suggests that probiotic bacteria trains body for any external stimulus and thus prevents allergies.
Probiotics good for women
In women, along with intestine vaginal cavity is also place for culture of bacteria. A good probiotic diet helps keep vaginal cavity healthy with balancing proportion of good bacteria. Study suggests that some disorders like bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections are caused in absence of good bacterial and can be treated with probiotic diet. Today probiotic vaginal suppositories are available as treatment to such vaginal infections. Vaginal infections often results in urinary tract infections. Vaginal infections also causes preterm labor in pregnant women. Regular consumption of probiotic food is recommended for urogenital health in women.
Probiotics role in stress
Stress can cause drops in the immune system and thereby cause harmful bacteria to spread and infect the bowels. Taking probiotics has been shown to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria clinging to the intestines when under stress.
Probiotics for infant health
When a child is born, it gets first shot of gut flora from vaginal tract. A health vagina will inoculate baby intestine with probiotic bacteria and helps in developing infant immunity. Probiotics can help in ensuring vaginal tract of pregnant women health and thus ensure infant health.
Gut flora and mood
Ever taken decisions lead by “Gut feeling”? A new area of research is on how gut bacteria can influence your mood. There is close interlink in function of digestive tract and our brain, and thus biochemistry in guts can affect our behavior. An experiment found that replacing the gut bacteria of anxious mice with bacteria from fearless mice, made the mice less anxious and fearless. It is believed that probiotic activity in gut can signal brain through vagus nerve. However research in this area is still nascent, yet very interesting.
Gut flora and autism
There are several factors believed to be responsible for Autism – a neurodevelopment disorder. A line of thought by some researchers in this area is that there is possible connection between abdominal gut condition and autism. Ausistic children are found to suffer from more gastrointestinal troubles. As research may confirm in future, Probiotics may help prevent Autism.
Probiotics for Healthy skin
Ever noticed correlation between constipation and indigestion with your skin eruptions? A new area of research is to understand signals which gut flora sends to your skin. There are several probiotic bacteria which help in keeping your skin healthy. Probiotic benefit in prevent eczema in infant is well known. Probiotic bacteria helps in proper digestion, aids absorption of vital nutrient, synthesize vitamins and helps removal of toxic substance from body, which have benefits for your skin. A research suggests that Probiotics can help in treating acne and establishes role of topical Probiotics.
Probiotics and Weight loss
A group of researchers found that gut flora in obese people is significantly different from that in normal weighing people and indicates relation between weight and gut flora. Some initial animal studies have confirmed that Probiotics can help reduce weight in obese people. Recent study shows that bacterial ecosystem in intestine affects how energy stored in our body and thus regulate fat storage. Day is not far when we can reduce our weight with probiotic supplements.
Probiotic to treat Colon cancer
Research is ongoing in area of role of probiotics in prevention of colon cancers. Cancers in intestine are often cause doe to dietary habits, lifestyle and accumulation of carcinogenic compounds. A research has found that colon cancer can be caused due to imbalance of intestinal microbial ecosystem. Some animal studies have found use of probiotic bacteria and prebiotics in treatment and prevention of colon cancers.
Side effects of probiotics
Some studies have shown that persons with some extreme health disorders, especially critical immune failure, can experience negative effects of taking probiotics, because the body cannot properly regulate the bacteria in the gut, it grows beyond control and starts producing negative effects. Some people may experience negative symptoms such as an allergic reaction to certain strains of probiotics, mostly because every persons gut flora is unique and not everyone has the same benefits from the same strains of probiotics.
Probiotics offer our body with various health benefits and research is ongoing in area of their new benefits to our body. It is essential to include regular consumption of probiotic food including fermented food, yoghurt and others in our diet and enjoy Probiotics health benefits.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Schwäbin