Probiotics: The Microfriends of the Gut

– World Health Organization (WHO) on Probiotics

The word is a portmanteau of PRO (for) & BIOTIC(life).


Probiotics are beneficial microp-organisms that aid in good health by enhancing your immunity and the functioning of your digestive system.


Probiotics are generally considered safe as they’re already present in a normal digestive system. 


What do probiotics do?


The consumption of probiotics increases the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut or digestive tract. Having the right kind of bacteria in your body can help digest food, absorb nutrients, make vitamins and stimulate immunity.


Thus, it is very important to maintain their number.


Potential benefits of probiotics have been seen in the treatment or prevention of


  • Diarrhea


  • Irritable bowel syndrome


  • Ulcerative colitis


  • Crohn’s disease


  • H. pylori (the cause of ulcers)


  • Urinary tract infections


  • Recurrence of bladder cancer


  • Infection of the digestive tract caused by Clostridium difficile

            pouchitis (a possible side effect of surgery that removes the colon)


  • Eczema in children.


The micro-organisms in your gut perform many functions that are important for your health. It manufactures vitamins, including vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.


It also turns fibers into short-chain fats like butyrate, propionate and acetate, which feed your gut wall and perform many metabolic functions.


These fats also stimulate your immune system and strengthen your gut wall. This helps  prevent unwanted substances from entering your body and provoking an avoidable immune response. 


Certain probiotic strains of bacteria are also beneficial in helping people lose weight.


Other benefits include, combatting depression, decreasing inflammation, balancing blood pressure and also ensuring proper skin upkeep.


Probiotics can also be useful in maintaining urogenital health. The vaginal tract can be thrown off balance due to the use of antibiotics, spermicides, and birth control pills. This can be set right through probiotic treatment as it can ensure the balance of micro flora and prevent problems such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, and urinary tract infection.

What are the examples of certain probiotic foods?


Foods prepared by bacterial fermentation are also a good source of Probiotic bacteria.


This includes yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi. 

The most common groups of probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Each group comprises different species, and each species has many strains.

What are prebiotics?


Prebiotics are substances that come from types of carbohydrates or fiber that humans can’t digest. They are basically used to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut.


Which Foods Are Prebiotic?


Prebiotic foods are those that are high in prebiotic fiber. These include legumes, beans, peas, Oats, Bananas, Berries, Asparagus, Garlic, Leeks and Onions.

One of the things your gut bacteria do with prebiotic fiber is turn it into a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate.


Butyrate is said to have anti-inflammatory effects inside the colon and may also influence gene expression, block the growth of cancerous cells and help provide fuel to healthy cells so that they can grow and divide normally.

Are there any side-effects?


Probiotics’ side effects, even if they occur, tend to be mild and digestive (such as gas or bloating). 


Probiotics might theoretically cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics, especially in people with underlying health conditions. They could also cause unhealthy metabolic activities and too much stimulation of the immune system.


In conclusion, our body does house good or helpful bacteria and bad or harmful bacteria. Maintaining the right balance between the two kinds  is necessary for good health. 


Age, genetics, and diet may influence the composition of the bacteria in the body. An imbalance between the two kinds of bacteria is called dysbiosis and could lead to several complications. Thus, choosing the right set of pro and prebiotics would definitely settle your gut and help you take another definitive step towards good health.

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