Then, there were Ice creams, now there are Probiotic Ice creams. Then, there were curds, now there are Probiotic curds. Then, there was milk, now there is Probiotic milk.
Do you see a change here? What happened? Suddenly a new word has been added to an ever increasing vocabulary of a food connoisseur, and interestingly, it’s fast becoming a trend, a way of life and one that is here to stay.
The word, “Probiotic” has much more to it than it being associated as yet another one of the many rich-man’s fads. Probiotic is in, it’s happening and above all, it is healthy.
In fact if you visit a departmental store, and look up the milk, curds, ice creams sections, most of the products will also have their corresponding probiotic versions.
The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host."
In simple terms, probiotics refer to small bacteria that are friendly to your body and function to maintain the natural balance of organisms in your body. There are a number of microbes in your body and most of them in your intestine, these microbes actually help in the process of digestion. And Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial to you just as the good bacteria inside your body. In fact, you will be surprised to know that at any one time, you have more bacteria in your body than the total number of people on the planet.
The word "Probiotic" simply means “for life” which explains that these are live bacteria with clinically documented health benefits. Most probiotics are bacteria similar to those naturally found in people's guts, especially in those of breastfed infants (who have natural protection against many diseases).
But why are Probiotics the sudden talk of the town?
There are numerous bacteria in your body, 20 times more in number than the number of body cells. All the more your body weight is not just you, but the billions of microbes that live in your gut. And these bugs, rather, bacteria, are crucial for good health. But then along with good or friendly bacteria that live in your gut, there are harmful bacteria as well. When the number of good bacteria is higher than the bad bacteria, your digestive system and intestinal tract is said to be on the right track.
Now, probiotics are the “friendly bacteria” which when ingested, act to maintain a healthy intestinal tract and fight illnesses and diseases. When your lower intestine will contain at least 85% of probiotic or good bacteria, then, they can prevent the effect of the 15% of disease causing microorganisms or bad bacteria.
But why should you opt for Probiotic Food?
Irregular meal timings and poor eating habits, junk foods and chlorinated drinking water, work pressures and the rat race, various ailments and the use of antibiotics can cause chaos in the gastrointestinal tract by destroying good bacteria and allowing undesirable bacteria to multiply.
And when the number of good bacteria is lowered in the body, problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, intestinal toxicity and poor absorption of nutrients take place. Although the body consists of, both, good as well as harmful bacteria, the growth of “harmful bacteria” cannot be left unchecked, else there are health problems.
And probiotics play an especially important role in stocking up the levels of health promoting good microbes in your digestive tract. These probiotics also join the existing friendly bacteria in your body to help inhibit the growth of more harmful microbes. This, in turn, will help improve the digestion and absorption of your food and stimulate and support the immune system.
It is not that a person completely relies on probiotic food, but supplementing your daily food with probiotic variety, can help in various ways.
Moreover, probiotics -
- Inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and improve the digestive system,
- prevent the overgrowth of yeast and fungus
- Produce substances that can lower cholesterol.
- Help alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance
- Prevents stomach heaviness and acidity
- Probiotics are particularly useful to those who take antibiotics. This is because although antibiotics kill the particular germs that keep you unwell, they also wipe out the “good” bacteria from your body. And it is then that probiotic foods establish large, healthy populations of friendly bacteria that compete with the bad bacteria that try to take up space in the body.
Available in the form of
As of now In India, foods that contain probiotics are primarily dairy products and dairy beverages, including curds, milk, ice creams, drinkable yogurt and certain dietary supplements too, for example, capsules, tablets and powders. In probiotic foods and supplements, the bacteria may have been present originally or added during preparation.
Experts recommend -
Dr. Jyoti Lalwani, Consulting Dietician, practicing in Mumbai, strongly recommends probiotic foods when she says, “Probiotic food promotes health and must be taken on a regular basis in the form of foods, including curds, milk and ice creams, more than in the form of supplements like capsules. If a person has a weak gut, having probiotic foods aids in digestion”. But, she adds, that if a person is taking probiotic supplements, then it must be for a limited period only, ranging from a week to ten days, and through a doctor’s advice.
She also says that there is no research that can wipe out the importance of probiotics, in fact, all research and studies prove its benefits. Talking about easily available Probiotic supplements, she adds, “Enterogermina is a probiotic which is available in an ampule form at local chemists in India’.
Probiotics with Antibiotics
Probiotics when taken along with antibiotics, with a gap of an hour in between, says Dr. Lalwani, can actually be helpful for the body. “This is because antibiotics are known to kill all the bacteria, not differentiating between good ones and bad ones and consuming probiotics, actually brings back the good bacteria”.
It is believed that those probiotic tablets, which have a special enteric coating to protect them as they pass through the acidic environment of the stomach to get to the lower part of the intestine, will really be helpful. Hence, tablets are “enteric-coated.” But it is not necessary for an individual to look for enteric coated probiotic tablets at chemists. Says Dr Lalwani, “ If it is prescribed by the doctor fine, else, enteric coated tablets are not essential. Instead foods will be much more beneficial”.
As probiotics increasingly occupy shelf spaces in supermarkets and general stores, manufacturers appear to be exploiting the increasing popularity of these ingredients, as a way to promote their products. Hence, it is pertinent that before buying, a customer checks the label so that they buy the genuine probiotic product without being fooled into a fake one. Also, it is important to seek the guidance of your health care provider before using any probiotic supplement.
Now that foods come with additional “friendly benefits”, it’s time you grab your “friendly bacteria” today!