Probiotics are microorganisms found in the digestive tract that help to maintain the body’s health. They improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and to stay free of infections.
The word probiotic was formulated from two Greek words; “pro” for promotion and “biotic” meaning life. Therefore, probiotics are generally bacteria that promote life.
The digestive tract contributes to 80% of your immunity. It is home a huge number of microorganisms known as the gut flora. These organisms consist of good and harmful bacteria.
Probiotics are useful in fighting the harmful bacteria and other disease-causing organisms in the gut. In so doing, they prevent your body from getting infected.
Benefits of Probiotics
1. Some strains are useful in treatment and prevention of gastroenteritis and diarrhea such as infectious, travelers and antibiotic diarrhea.
2. Studies have shown that probiotics improve the brain functions and are a good recipe for treatment of depression and anxiety.
3. They reduce the levels of harmful cholesterol.
4. They treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which is quite difficult to cure by medication. Bifidobacterium infantis is a probiotic that treat this condition.
5. They boost immunity. For instance, fermented milk contains a bacteria that promotes the production of lymphocytes which are key to a strong immune system.6. They regulate blood pressure. This can be achieved by taking milk fermented with strains of LAB probiotic.7.
Probiotics like Lactobacillus Salivarius are known to prevent infections like Listeria infection.8. They cure Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) which are known to recur even after antibiotics are used.9. They are also good for vaginal health. Just like the gut, the vagina contains good bacteria and harmful microorganisms.
Probiotics help in striking a healthy balance between the two.10. They help to prevent or manage eczema.11. They help to fight illnesses caused by some foods.12. They help in secretion of enzymes that fight harmful bacteria, yeast, and fungi.
Sources of probiotics
Below are some foods which are known to be rich in probiotic strains.
• Yogurt. The best yogurts are the ones prepared with unskimmed milk which is not subjected to pasteurization or freezing. Extreme temperatures kill probiotics.
• Kefir contains a mixture of fermented milk and kefir grains.
• Sauerkraut is made of fermented cabbages and various vegetables.
• Fermented miso.
• Coconut kefir which is made from a mixture of kefir and coconut milk.
• Natto which is made from fermented soybeans.
• Kvass, a fermented beverage made from barley or rye.
• Kimchi, a mixture of fermented vegetables popular in Korea.
• Fermented black tea which is known as kombucha.
• Fermented miso.
• Aged raw cheese.
Pasteurized cheese may not contain any meaningful amount of probiotics.
From the list highlighted above, it is evident that fermented products are very rich in probiotics. However, you might not be able to access some of the foods on that list. Fortunately, scientists have formulated probiotic supplements. Different supplements come with different strains, therefore, it is advisable for you to know which supplements are suitable for you.
Traits of a good supplement
• It should be resistant to acids and bile
• It should prove to promote immunity
• It should be capable of balancing the digestive tract flora
• It should be highly adaptive• It should deal with lactose intolerance
• It should improve digestion
Things consider before buying a supplement
1. Since there are countless probiotics, it is important to establish which condition you wish to regulate in your body; whether it is immunity, hormonal levels or digestion, etc. However, you should consume a wide range of probiotics to ensure that you are covered in all areas.
2. Research on the manufacturer’s reputation so as not to fall for fake or ineffective stuff.
3. Check the supplements label for ingredients to see if your desired component is included.
4. A good supplement should contain 10 to 30 strains of probiotics.
5. Check the Colony Forming Units (CFU). The figures should range from 15 billion to 30 billion.
6. It should have clear dosage.
7. It should exhibit high levels of stability and survivability.
Side Effects of Probiotic Supplements
If you begin with large quantities, you might suffer from diarrhea. It is advisable to start with a small amount and to increase the amount gradually.
Below are some agents that destroy probiotics.
2. Tap Water
3. Emotional Stress
4. GMO Foods
6. Chemicals and medications
A few examples of naturally occurring probiotic strains in fermented foods are Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, Lactobacillus paracasei St11, Lactobacillus reuteri ATCC, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM.