All of us have come across the term probiotics. So, what are probiotics? Probiotics first came into recognition when Nobel Laureate Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov concluded that Bulgarian peasants who ate yogurt lived longer. He was a zoologist from Russia and is known to the scientific world for his sincere research in immunology.
Probiotics consist of live microorganisms. These organisms when entering our body promotes health benefits. However, the actual result after consuming probiotics may not be convincing. Nonetheless, scientists and researchers claim that these microorganisms do bring health benefits and even strengthens our immune system. These microorganisms can improve gastrointestinal microbiota or gut flora. Scientists claim that probiotics prevents many diseases and keeps the good/bad bacteria ratio well balanced inside a human body.
Our bodies are full of germs and bacteria. They can have both positive and negative effects on our bodies. So there is no need to be worried about consuming bacteria. Probiotics are very helpful for the digestive system. They improve the bacterial conditions and interactions inside our digestive tracts, where many species of bacteria reside.
Doctors recommend consuming probiotics to people who are suffering from digestive problems. Probiotics claim to maintain a healthy gut flora, which is essential for the body’s proper functioning. For example, after an antibiotic course, good bacteria inside our system are lost. Consuming probiotics can help replace these good bacteria so that the body functions normally. Now that we have discussed what are probiotics, it is worth knowing more about them and how many types of probiotics there are.
Types of probiotics
After an explanation of what are probiotics, let us discuss their types and strains. There are mainly two types of probiotics that are studied and researched until today. They are:
Bifidobacteria: These bacteria can be found in foods and supplements. You can also find it in dairy products. They can support the immune system as well as reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. Their primary objective is to break down the lactose into nutrients that the body can absorb. Bifidobacterium can also relieve from irregular bowel movements and diseases.
Lactobacillus: These bacteria are the most common type of probiotics. They can be found in Lactobacillus supplements or in yogurt and some other fermented foods. They produce lactase which is an important enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactobacillus can also produce lactic acid that helps to control the population of bad germs or bacteria. They help to absorb more minerals and are found in the mouth, small intestine and vagina.
Strains of Probiotics
Strains of probiotics simply refer to the different subspecies of probiotic bacteria. You can see the particular strain of probiotic in labeled probiotic foods and supplements. Many strains of probiotics are used for people as well as scientific research and studies. However, there are six common strains of probiotics that you can find in many labeled foods and supplements. Six strains of probiotics are:
It helps in digestion and prevents diseases and infections from foodborne bacteria. You can find this strain in yogurts and it also helps to boost our immune systems.
This strain of bacteria can be found in digestive tracts and the vagina. They help our bodies absorb nutrients by fermenting sugar and breaking down the fiber of vegetables to make it digestible. They also fight infection-causing bacteria both in the digestive tract as well as the vagina.
This strain is found in raw milk and other milk or dairy products. They help to break down lactose and divide nutrients within the body. They are also known to improve metabolism.
This strain is present in the gastrointestinal tract and helps to break down carbohydrates.
This particular strain is found in the vagina and small intestine. They fight off infection-causing bacteria and helps in digestive problems. You can find this in fermented soy products and yogurt.
Present in the mouth and intestines. Recent research shows that this strain helps digestion and fights off oral bacteria, a major cause of tooth decay.
Sometimes our bodies need a little bit of extra boost, especially when we feel weak or ill. Probiotic foods can help to a huge extent when it comes to boosting the immune system. The live microorganisms present inside them help to digest food properly and prevent many serious health diseases.
Probiotics are essential for the smooth and undisturbed functioning of our system. They help to balance between the good and bad bacteria, keeping our bodies on their toes. Probiotics can be found in many foods. Some may be natural and some are manufactured. However, their function remains the same.
Here is a list of probiotic foods:
Probiotics are not present in all kinds of cheese. This depends on the aging process of the cheese. Some cheese may age with good bacteria in it, while some cheeses age but the good bacteria do not survive.
Probiotics are present in Gouda cheese, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and also mozzarella. Cheese is very nutritious and improves the condition of the heart and bones.
This a fermented product obtained from soybean. It is quite common in Japanese households. Older males, who regularly consume natto, have higher bone mineral density. This product helps in improving cardiovascular growth and is important for our bones.
3. Buttermilk (Traditional)
Most of us are quite acquainted with the traditional buttermilk. It is the liquid that is left over after preparing the butter. It is very much different from cultured buttermilk that we find in stores or markets. Traditional buttermilk contains active probiotics that help digestion. They are rich in calcium, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.
Usually, cucumbers left to ferment in salty water become a pickle after complete fermentation. The lactic acid present inside cucumbers makes them sour and rich in vitamin K. They are a pivotal ingredient in blood clotting, low in calories and high in sodium. If mixed with vinegar, probiotic bacteria dies and it becomes a normal pickle.
Kombucha is consumed in Asia mostly. It is a fermented tea drink. The tea is fermented by friendly bacteria and yeast. Although, studies show very minimal evidence, as tests were made on animals and not humans. However, seeing its probiotic properties, scientists claim it should have health benefits on humans too.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning. A fungus called Koji is mixed with salt and soybeans for the fermentation process. After making the paste, it is used in soups as well as few dishes. It is a popular breakfast dish in Japan and studies show women consuming miso soup now and then has a reduced chance of breast cancer. It is rich in proteins, fiber and includes vitamin k, manganese, and copper.
Kimchi is a spicy Korean dish. They are made from fermenting cabbages and adding seasonings like garlic, ginger, salt, and scallion. They are rich in vitamin K, riboflavin and helps in the smooth functioning of the digestive system.
Another product derived from fermented soybean. It is a worldwide substitute for meat as it forms as a soft and firm patty that tastes like mushrooms. It originated from Indonesia but now is available throughout the world. The fermentation process adds vitamin B12 in it, while it is absent in soybeans. This makes Tempeh a popular choice among vegans and health-conscious people all over the world.
It is a traditional dish where cabbage is finely shredded and mixed with lactic acid bacteria. Sauerkraut originates from Europe and now is consumed by almost every corner of the world. It is rich in nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants. They are beneficial for our eyes.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink. It is processed by mixing kefir grains in cow or goat milk. Kefir is a strong and diverse probiotic that contains many essential bacteria. It is quite useful than yogurt. Consumption of kefir may reward you with improved bone health, digestive health as well as preventing infections.
Yogurt is the most common food of probiotic properties. It is the most adaptive probiotic food in the west and it helps in maintaining functioning gut flora and improves metabolism and digestion. However, some yogurt may not contain probiotics as they can be killed during the process.
Probiotic Side Effects
Many people still don’t understand what are probiotics and why they are so essential in maintaining a healthy body. While there are no side effects on most humans, some of you may face these symptoms:
- Consuming probiotics may instill digestive complications. In many cases, patients have suffered from probiotic consumption as they are allergic or posses a certain condition.
- Many live microorganisms can trigger headaches in many people. This happens when a probiotic containing biogenic amines is consumed. In rare cases, it can also lead to migraines.
- In many humans, some probiotics can also trigger a rise in histamine levels. Histamine levels refer to the immune system’s reaction when a threat is detected. This occurs when the probiotic bacteria entering the body are rejected by the immune system which causes blood clotting in the affected area. It can also cause swelling, itching, watery eyes and even difficulty in breathing.
- They can increase infection risk for some individuals.
Probiotic Weight Loss
We all know what are probiotics and how they benefit our bodies. Weight-loss related to the consumption of probiotic foods is not a myth at all. As discussed earlier in this article, probiotics can actively help you to absorb fewer calories and improve digestion.
People eating rich probiotic foods gain weight faster than people prescribing themselves with stupid pills. These pills can hamper your immune system and incorporate unnatural interactions between bacteria and the body.
Some probiotics can also inhibit the absorption of dietary fats and can help exclude these fats out of the body through feces.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Both of these terms are quite very big in the nutrition world. However, they are not the same and are distinctly different in nature and function. While some of us are clear on the topic of what are probiotics, it is also important to take note of what prebiotics do.
Prebiotics are just for the gut bacteria that reside in our stomach and digestive tracts. While probiotics are useful bacteria that enter our body through foods, supplements, prebiotics are food for the bacteria residing in our gut.
It is a form of fiber that humans can’t digest. This fiber can only be broken down by the gut bacteria and it feeds off it. This makes the gut bacteria healthy and boosts our immune system.
From foods to supplements, probiotics also comes in beverages and drinks. For example, Yakult is a worldwide famous product that is a probiotic drink. It claims that it carries all the essential probiotic bacteria and helps to strengthen the immune system.
Parents give probiotics to their children to help boost the immune system. Many elderly adults with low immune system also consume probiotics.
Probiotics are also available in tablet forms. Many people can have allergic reactions to natural probiotics. Therefore, doctors prescribe drugs that are suitable for every individual. Some widely prescribed drug all over the world are:
- Florastor Kids
- Phillips Colon Health
- BD Lactinex
- Flora Q
Probiotics are also available in the market in the form of supplements. Before consuming any supplements, you should clearly understand what are probiotics. For that, you need to consult your doctor and inform him/her of your infections or allergies.
For people who consume supplements, here is a list worth looking at:
- Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic
- Schiff Digestive Advantage Daily Probiotic
- Align Probiotic Supplement
- Ortho Molecular Products Ortho Biotic