Probiotics 101: All What You Need To Know + What Research Says about Probiotics

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Probiotics 101: All What You Need To Know + What Research Says about Probiotics

Our body is made up of bacteria which play an important role in its proper functioning. A lot of studies have been done on probiotics. However, its benefits and uses are not widely known to the general population. 

In this article, we will learn the following about probiotics. 
  • What probiotics are
  • The history of probiotics
  • The various organisms that are in probiotics i.e. types of probiotics
  • The difference between probiotics and prebiotics
  • How probiotics work
  • Probiotics and gut health
  • Health benefits and uses of probiotics
  • Safety and side effects of probiotics
  • Where to get probiotics
What are probiotics?
The World Health Orgainzation defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host” (source).

Probiotics are most of the time composed of bacteria with a few being made up of yeast. probiotics are found in foods, dietary supplements and some skin creams. 

The History of probiotics
Probiotics has been in existence for a while now. In the early part of the 20th century, Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff proposed that the consumption of beneficial bacteria can improve many aspects of our health. He was known as the father of probiotics and researchers are till this day investigating the potential benefits of probiotics.

Types of probiotics
Majority of probiotics are made up of bacteria with few being made up of yeast. 
The most common microorganisms used as probiotics are
1 lactobacillus and
2 Bifidobacterium genera i.e all bacteria of the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium group. 
The other bacterial genera being used include
3 Enterococcus
4 Streptococcus and
5 Escherichia. 
The fungus Saccharomyces boulardii is also being used as a probiotic (source).

Differences between probiotics and  prebiotics
probiotics are different from prebiotics. Prebiotics refer to dietary substances that favour the growth of beneficial bacteria over harmful bacteria. 
Synbiotics are products that are made up of both probiotics and prebiotics. 

How do probiotics work?
Researchers are still investigating further into the mechanism of action of probiotics. Studies have found that probiotics works in the following ways (source). 
  • exclusion of pathogens
  • normalization of disturbed flora in the body
  • regulation of intestinal transit
  • neutralization of carcinogens
  • enzymatic activity
  • bile salt metabolism
  • Vitamin synthesis
  • gut barrier reinforcement
  • direct antagonism

Why does everyone mention gut health when referring to probiotics?
Our gut contains many microorganisms with the majority being bacteria.They perform vital functions that help prevent infections and boost the immune system.All these complex microorganisms are referred to as our gut flora.

The bacteria that lines our digestive tract are the good bacteria and we can get bad bacteria from food and the environment.

When the gut flora becomes unstable as a result of excessive bad bacteria, many diseases and health conditions can occur as a result of this (source). Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity have also been linked to microbes in the human gut (source).

Health benefits and uses of probiotics
1 Treatment of antibiotic associated diarrhoea
Taking antibiotics for long can destroy some of the good bacteria in our digestive tract leading to diarrhoea. studies have showed that probiotics can reverse this condition (source).

2 Probiotics may help with irritable bowel syndrome which is a chronic digestive disorder (source). 

3 Beneficial in the prevention of stomach cancer and stomach ulcers
Probiotics has been shown be effective against Helicobacter pylori infections which are responsible for stomach ulcers and cancers (source1 source2).

4 Beneficial against inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and crohn's disease (source).

5 Boost our immune system
Our immune system helps us in fighting against infections. probiotics has been shown to help in preventing upper respiratory tract infections such as cold (source).

6 Blood pressure regulation
probiotic fermented milk has been shown to have blood pressure lowering effects in prehypertensive and hypertensive subjects (source).

7 Blood cholesterol levels
Probiotics has been shown to be beneficial in lowering low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (source). 

8 Weight management
some strains of probiotics have been shown to assist with weight loss and obesity prevention (source) while others have been shown to bring about weight gain (source).

Safety and side effects of probiotics
Those who are in good health will rarely experience any side effects and if they do, they may experience gas. on the other hand, infections have been reported in people with underlying health conditions (source). It is best to speak with your health care provider  before taking probiotic supplements

Where to get probiotics
Probiotics can be gotten from some foods or from dietary supplements. Probiotics can be found in foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir.
If you are looking for a dietary form of probiotics, we recommend that you take probiotic 40-Billion twice a day. 

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