Probiotics: What is it, 8+ Benefits, Side Effects, Food & Types

What is Probiotics ?

Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, can confer health benefits to the host. These microorganisms are typically found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Probiotics are also available in supplement form and are commonly used to help manage a variety of health conditions, including digestive disorders, allergies, and immune system dysfunction.

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History Of Probiotics:

The concept of using live microorganisms to promote health dates back to ancient times. In the early 20th century, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elie Metchnikoff proposed the idea that the consumption of fermented milk products containing live microorganisms could improve health and prolong life. This theory was based on observations of the long lifespan of Bulgarian peasants who consumed large quantities of fermented dairy products.

In the 1960s, the term “probiotic” was first coined by the scientist and microbiologist R.R. Fuller. The term was later defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001 as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.”

Types of Probiotics:

There are many different types of probiotics, but the most commonly studied are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria are naturally found in the human gut and are thought to play a role in maintaining gut health and supporting the immune system.

Other types of probiotics include Streptococcus thermophilus, Saccharomyces boulardii, and various strains of Escherichia coli. These microorganisms are also commonly found in fermented foods and may have unique health benefits.

Mechanism of Action of Probiotics:

The mechanism of action of probiotics is complex and not fully understood. However, researchers believe that probiotic work in several ways to promote health.

One of the primary ways that probiotics work is by restoring the balance of microorganisms in the gut. This balance can be disrupted by factors such as antibiotics, illness, stress, and poor diet. Probiotics help to restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and support immune function.

Probiotic may also produce compounds such as short-chain fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and improve gut barrier function. These compounds may also have systemic effects on the body, such as reducing insulin resistance and improving cholesterol levels.

Probiotic may also interact with the immune system to modulate immune function. For example, probiotics may help to reduce the severity of allergies by regulating the immune response to allergens.

Health Benefits of Probiotics:

Probiotic have been studied for their potential to improve a wide range of health conditions. Some of the most well-studied health benefits of probiotics include:

  1. Digestive Health: Probiotic have been shown to improve a range of digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diarrhea caused by infection or antibiotic use.
  2. Immune System Function: Probiotic have been shown to support the immune system by modulating immune function and reducing the severity of allergies.
  3. Mental Health: There is some evidence to suggest that probiotics may have a beneficial effect on mental health, particularly in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  4. Cardiovascular Health: Probiotic may help to reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  5. Women’s Health: Probiotics may be beneficial for women’s health by reducing the risk of vaginal infections and improving the health of the urogenital tract.
  6. Skin Health: It has been suggested that probiotics will help improve skin health by reducing inflammation and promoting a healthy immune system.
  7. Weight Management: There is some evidence to suggest that probiotic may help with weight management by reducing inflammation and improving gut barrier function.
  8. Dental Health: Probiotic may help to improve dental health by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

It is important to note that while probiotic have been studied for their potential health benefits, more research is needed to fully understand their effects on different health conditions.

Sources of Probiotics:

Probiotic can be found in a variety of foods, including fermented dairy products such as yogurt, kefir, and cheese. Other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha, also contain probiotics.

Probiotic supplements are also widely available in health food stores and online. When choosing a probiotic supplement, it is important to look for one that contains live, active cultures and has been tested for safety and efficacy.

Dosage:

The optimal dosage of probiotics varies depending on the individual and the health condition being treated. The FAO and WHO recommend a daily dose of at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of probiotics for general health maintenance.

For specific health conditions, higher doses may be necessary. It is important to follow the dosing instructions provided by the manufacturer of the probiotic supplement or to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.

Safety and Side Effects:

Probiotic are generally considered safe for most people when taken in recommended doses. However, some people may experience mild side effects, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea, particularly when first starting to take probiotic.

People with weakened immune systems or serious health conditions should talk to their healthcare provider before taking probiotics, as they may be at increased risk of developing infections or other complications.

It is also important to note that not all these are created equal. Different strains of bacteria may have different effects on the body, and the quality and purity of probiotic supplements can vary widely.

Conclusion:

Probiotic are living microorganisms that can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These beneficial bacteria are found in a variety of foods and supplements and have been studied for their potential to improve digestive health, immune system function, mental health, cardiovascular health, women’s health, skin health, weight management, and dental health.

While they are generally considered safe, it is important to choose a high-quality supplement and follow recommended dosing guidelines. As with any supplement or health intervention, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if they are appropriate for your individual health needs.

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