What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms namely bacteria and yeasts, which when consumed, are good for your health and notably good for your digestive system. Not every bacteria are disease causing or harmful to the human body. Probiotics fall in the few exceptional “good” bacterial groups that are naturally found in our bodies or may be taken daily food or by probiotic supplements.
Different types of probiotics
Probiotics are generally bacteria or yeasts. Below is a list of probiotics and their health benefits.
Lactobacillus is generally found in the digestive system, urinary tracts and the genital tracts. Lactobacillus is also found in foods like yogurt and can be taken through diet supplements.
They are very beneficial for the treatment/prevention of diarrhea, urinary tract infection, irregular bowel syndrome and some skin diseases.
Bifidobacteria reside in the colon. They remain in the intestinal tract and maintain a healthy gut. They are also known to improve blood glucose and lipid tolerance.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii
It is the only probiotic belonging to the yeast family. It is known to prevent Traveler’s diarrhea and also acne.
4. Streptococcus thermophilus
S. thermophilus is shown to produce large amount of lactase, which breaks down lactose and thus helps people with lactose intolerance.
5. Enterococcus faecium
Normally found in intestines of both animals and humans.
These have been used for food processing throughout ages and it prevents growth of harmful microorganisms on food.
Sources of probiotics
Most of the food or beverages that are fermented contain these bacteria. Fermentation extends the shelf life of food as well as preserves the bacteria.
Some of the food that naturally contains probiotics is:
- Kefir milk – probably the most popular source of probiotics right now. It contains both bacteria and yeast together and provides numerous health benefits.
- Yogurt - it is also a good source of Lactobacillus, streptococcus and other bacteria that act as probiotics.
- Kimchi – it is a fermented vegetable made from cabbage, radish, onion, r garlic and ginger. It contains a number of bacteria mainly Lactobacillus and leuconostoc.
Other food products containing probiotics are:
Aged cheese, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, soy beverages, packaged juice, chocolates and cereals.
Side effects and risks
Since these are live bacteria, care needs to be taken while consuming probiotic supplements. Careful monitoring, storage, right combinations should be done while handling with any kinds of microorganisms. Also people with a weak immune system, pregnant women, children and elderly people should be cautions while taking these supplements.
It has been shown that when people with a compromised immune system or digestive problems take probiotic supplements, it results in infections. Therefore it is advisable that you seek the advice of a physician while taking these supplements.
In conclusion, probiotic supplements are more beneficial than harmful but their consumption should command caution. If you are taking supplements rather than food sources, gathering more information about the product is advisable and buying from a registered seller is necessary.