What do probiotics do for our health?
Our intestinal tracts harbor trillions of bacteria. We feel healthy when “friendly” bacteria dominate. The digestive system houses more than 500 different bacterial species of good and bad bacteria in a constantly changing environment as they compete with each other. Although our images of bacteria are usually associated with germs and disease, probiotics are your ‘friendly bacteria, essential for the body to maintain health. Good health is fundamentally reliant upon the correct level of ‘good’ bacteria. Their numbers can be depleted by many factors such as chronic use of antibiotics and gastric acid inhibitors, lifestyle, stress and a poor diet, (low in fiber and high in refined sugars and alcohol). Replacing these by way of supplementation may help reach the required healthy levels.
Acidophilus is one of several microbes known collectively as probiotics (literally, “pro life,” suggesting that they help rather than harm). Others include the bacteria L. bulgaricus, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, L. casei, B. bifidus, S. salivarius, and S. thermophilus and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.
Probiotics were first identified more than 100 years ago, when the Russian Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff found that Belgian peasants who ate a lot of yoghurt were healthier and lived longer. Supplementing with probiotics can help in a number of ways. As well as boosting the number of “good” bacteria in the gut, probiotic bacteria help prevent the movement of toxic material including undigested food into the blood stream, thereby reducing the risk of an allergic reaction developing. In addition to helping the digestive tract to function optimally, these probiotics also reduce the presence of less healthful organisms by competing with them in the gut. For this reason, use of probiotics can help prevent infectious diarrhea.
Antibiotics can disturb the balance of your intestinal flora by killing friendly bacteria allowing harmful bacteria to move in and flourish. This can lead to vaginal infections. Experts believe that regular use of probiotics can help prevent vaginal infections and help improve the health of the gastrointestinal system.
Probiotic supplementation has been found to enhance immunity, particularly in infants and the elderly, by stimulating the development of certain immune system components. Some of the strains support immune system health by changing the way the white cells and antibodies work. The following are the some of the health benefits of probiotics:
Probiotic bacteria compete for space and nutrients with potentially pathogenic bacteria in the gut. They also produce substances such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and antibacterial substances called “bacteriocins”, all of which prevent pathogenic bacteria and harmful microorganisms from establishing in the body.
Some strains of probiotics secrete enzymes that aid digestion. For example many lactic acid probiotic bacteria breakdown the milk sugar lactose in the small intestine.
Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) Production
SCFAs, such as lactic acid, are vital by-products of the fermentation of fiber by probiotic bacteria. SCFAs create an acidic environment in the intestine, helping to prevent pathogenic bacteria and harmful microorganisms from establishing in the gut.
Probiotic supplementation has been found to enhance immunity, particularly in infants and the elderly, by stimulating the development of certain immune system components.
Food Allergy Control
The lining of the intestine by probiotic bacteria prevents the movement of toxic material including undigested food into the blood stream, thereby reducing the risk of an allergic reaction developing.
Maintenance and Regularity
As probiotic bacteria are required for the breakdown of fiber and the control of pathogenic bacteria, they help to maintain a healthy GI tract and optimal bowel regularity.
What evidence is there that probiotics work?
The scientific trials and data supporting the health benefits of probiotics is growing on a weekly basis. In fact, there is no other ingredient or product available in pharmacies or health food stores which can provide customers with such a wide-ranging list of health benefits, supported by science. (see related article)
Check out this related article:- facts and science of probiotics
Or, Have a look at Quest’s New Biotix range of Probiotics on our website —> www.simplyhealthfood.co.uk/probiotics
Or read about them in our New product review section —> New product reviews