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Probiotics – The Wonder Bugs

Probiotics – The Wonder Bugs

#Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for our health, especially our digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But our body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Probiotics are naturally found in our body commonly as intestinal micro flora and vaginal micro flora. You can also find them in form of foods and supplements.

Examples of probiotic foods are yogurt/curd,kefir ,kombucha,sauerkraut,miso soup,kimchi out of which curd is the only probiotic food widely available in India.

Eating everyday yogurt/curd alone does not fulfill one’s daily probiotic requirement as it contains only two strains that is Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus where as body need to be supplemented with other probiotic strains too. Again curd is prepared out of fermentation process of the milk where the above two strains already completed their activity .So the benefits will be less. The maximum brands of yogurt/curd available hardly have any probiotic colonies left in it as they undergo pasteurization process before coming to market.

Therefore, it is recommended to supplement the body with a balance lyophilized synbiotic ( Probiotic +Prebiotic) formulation available in market preferably in capsule form.

The intestinal micro flora of every individual consists of various microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract. This micro flora has a symbiotic relationship with the host organism and protects the body against infections, assists digestion, produces nutrients, and plays an important role in the immune system. A good micro flora balance in the intestine is essential for these functions and for the health of the host. When the intestinal flora is in balance, both beneficial and other microorganisms are present. This balance can be disturbed by factors such as the use of antibiotics, stress or an unbalanced diet. Disturbing the balance creates a risk that the beneficial intestinal bacteria will be suppressed and that the pathogenic bacteria will become dominant.

The vaginal micro flora is the microorganism that colonizes in the vagina. The amount and type of bacteria present have significant implications for a woman’s overall health. The primary colonizing bacteria of a healthy individual are of the genus Lactobacillus, and the lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, bacteriocin they produce protect against infection by pathogenic species. They help to maintain the ideal vaginal pH that is 3.5 to 4.The population of vaginal micro flora gets disturbed when excess amount of antibiotic is used as well as every month during the menstrual cycle the pH of vagina changed to alkaline as blood is alkaline in nature and this condition invites pathogenic bacteria to grow.

So, supplementing body with probiotics on regular basis is much more important for women.

It’s only been since about the mid-1990s that people have wanted to know more about probiotics and their health benefits. Doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems. And because of their newfound fame, one can find them in everything from yogurt to chocolate.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”. These microorganisms include both bacteria and yeast-based cells, which interact with the body differently.

Types of Probiotics:
Probiotics otherwise known as lactic acid bacteria which are gram positive in nature basically classified as Facultative Anaerobes and Obligate Anaerobes.

They could be rod shaped (Genus-Lactobacillus), Branch shaped (Genus-Bifidobacteria), Round shaped (Genus-Streptococcus,Lactococcus,Enterococcus)
Facultative Anaerobes: A facultative anaerobe is an organism that makes ATP by aerobic respiration if oxygen is present, but is capable of switching to fermentation or anaerobic respiration if oxygen is absent.
Example: Lactobacilli, Streptococcus thermophilus, Streptococcus salivarius, Sachharomyces cerevisiae
Obligate Anaerobes: An obligate aerobe, by contrast, cannot make ATP in the absence of oxygen, and obligate anaerobes die in the presence of oxygen.
Example: Bifidobacteria,Enterococcus,Lactococcus
Also these bacteria can be classified into category Homofermentative and Heterofermentative
Homofermentative are those which produces lactic acid as end product where as heterofermentative produces ethyl alcohol as the end product.

Mode of Action:
Though Probiotics has different mode of actions basing on type of health benefits, they demonstrate the common action that is process of fermentation using the carbohydrates in the temperature 38 degree Celsius +/- 1 at pH 7.2 as a result produce lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide, bacteriocin also different types of vitamins.

Probiotics provide multiple benefits for the whole body. By helping to maintain a balanced intestinal environment, they enhance digestion and help prevent occasional irritable bowel, diarrhea, constipation and other digestive issues. They also help to ferment soluble fiber in the gut, which in turn produces a short-chain fatty acid called butyric acid that helps to nourish healthy colon cells and promote bowel regularity.

Vital to a healthy immune system, probiotics produce antibacterial compounds and acids that help support the growth of good bacteria in the gut and inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. As a result, they help to improve overall immune function.
Probiotics also help your body absorb valuable nutrients from food during the digestive process. In addition, they play a key role in the manufacturing of needed vitamins (including B12 and K) and provide nourishment for healthy intestinal cells.

Probiotics help move food through your gut. Some common conditions they treat are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
  • Antibiotic-related diarrhea
  • H.pylori induced ulcer

There is also some research to show they help with problems in other parts of human body. For example

  • Skin conditions, like eczema
  • Urinary and vaginal health
  • Preventing allergies and colds
  • Oral health
  • Respiratory health
  • Immune health
  • Life style disorders like Diabetes,Hypertension,Hypercholesterolemia

The FDA, Health Canada regulates probiotics like dietary supplements, not like medications.
In general, probiotic foods and supplements are safe for all most all the people of all ages, genders including infants, expecting and lactating mothers. The people with compromised immune disorders like AIDS and Lymphoma or those who are on a long term steroid treatment shouldn’t take probiotics. In very rare cases, mild side effects might include upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, and bloating for the first couple of days after you start them. They may also trigger allergic reactions. Stop taking them and talk to your doctor if you have problems.
To maintain a healthy life all need to be supplemented with surplus colonies of these wonder bugs on regular basis.

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