All you need to know about Probiotics
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Bacteria and other microorganisms are generally referred to as harmful to the human body, but, there are many of these bacteria and microorganisms which are beneficial to the human body within a certain given range and condition. Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amount confer health benefits to the host and these are defined as to be probiotics. Those live microbial feed supplements that affect the host animal in a positive way by improving its intestinal microbial balance are also defined as Probiotics. They are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms which help in maintaining or improving the “good” bacteria status in the body. Presently, several well-characterized strains of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterial are available for human use to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) infections or treatment thereof. Probiotics are generally used for a variety of indications which include improvement of intestinal health by the regulation of microbiota, stimulation and development of the immune system, increasing synthesis and bioavailability of nutrients, reducing lactose intolerance, and also risk of other GI related diseases.
BENEFITS OF PROBIOTIC
Probiotics establish themselves in the GI tract and thus help in enhancing their ability to eradicate competitor organisms. By the various end products & by products released by probiotics, it creates an environment which is detrimental for food borne pathogens and other spoilage organisms. This directly helps in the increase in resistance to enteric pathogens. Probiotics also help in lactose digestion. Probiotics enhance the immune system by enhancing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines along with various other mechanisms. With an increase in bifidobacterial cell count, there is an increase in detoxification and excretion of toxic metabolites. Enhancing the immune system also prevents excessive immunological responses thereby resulting in reduced allergic reactions. Probiotics are known to have a significant antioxidative effect which helps in reducing blood cholesterol and also reduce the chances of heart disease. It’s action on milk protein results in the release of anti-hypertensive tripeptides which ultimately reduces blood pressure. Due to the ability of a probiotic to adhere and grow in the gut flora, competitive colonization and competitive inhibition and exclusion of other gut microbiota, it is very effective in reducing H Pylori and infections there after along with reduction in instances of Hepatic Encephalopathy. Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Crohn’s Disease are also benefited by the use of Probiotics. Gut flora has been seen to affect the pathogenesis of insulin resistance through many well documented studies. Thus, a regulation in the gut flora has been seen to affect obesity and diabetes in a positive way and has become a potential targeted treatment for diabetics and obese population.
FEATURES OF A PROBIOTIC
For probiotics to be successful and effective, they should ideally
- Be able to survive at the site of action
- Be able to replicate at the site of action
- Should not trigger an immune reaction
- Should not be mutagenic, carcinogenic, allergic or pathogenic
- Tolerate low pH
- Be of human origin
TYPES OF PROBIOTICS
- LACTOBACILLUS: Naturally found in the digestive, urinary, and genital systems. Yoghurt and fermented food naturally carry Lactobacillus.
- BIFIDOBACTERIA: Naturally make up about 90% of the healthy colonic flora. Present at birth in infants and is a marker of intestinal health.
- SACCHAROMYSES BOULARDII: It is the only yeast probiotic and is effective in treating diarrhoea.
- STREPTOCOCCUS THERMOPHILUS: Effective in treatment of lactose intolerance
- ENTEROCOCCUS FAECIUM: Normally found in human intestine
MECHANISM OF ACTION OF PROBIOTICS
Probiotics have a multitude of mechanisms and influences on the host. Probiotics influence the epithelial and mucosal barrier function, the intestinal luminal environment and the mucosal immune system. Epithelial cells, dendritic cells, monocytes/macrophages, B cells & T cells are of the numerous cells which are affected in a positive way by probiotics. The ability to survive in the acidic as well as the alkaline environment of gut along with their ability to adhere and colonize the colon defines the effectiveness of any probiotic.
FOODS CONTAINING PROBIOTICS
The discovery of probiotics and their benefits began with sour milk. Today there are many such food items which are incorporated with probiotics though it is always not as simple as adding the probiotic in the food. It has been suggested that approximately 109 CFU per day of probiotic microorganisms is necessary to elicit the required health effect. In order to exert health benefits, probiotic bacteria must remain viable in the food carriers and survive the harsh condition of GI tract.
A few examples of the various food which are rich in probiotics and bring along the health benefits are:
KEFIR: The most ideal probiotic dairy product containing both bacteria and yeast working together to provide health benefits. Has been shown to reduce HbA1c levels significantly
KEMCHI: Fermented vegetable made from Chinese cabbage (beachu), radish, green onion, red pepper powder, garlic, ginger and fermented seafood (jeotgal). Has been shown to be anticancer genic, reduce obesity, relieve constipation, increase colon health, reduce cholesterol, have antioxidative and antiaging properties, promote brain health, increase immunity, and better skin health.
YOGURT: It can contain Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum. Has shown to have positive effects on the gut microbiota and is associated with a reduced risk for gastrointestinal disease and improvement of lactose intolerance (especially among children), type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, allergies, and respiratory diseases, as well as improved dental and bone health
- Dairy based sweet acidophilus milk
- Ice cream
- Whey drink
- Whey cheese
- Soy based milk, cream and cheese
- Juices of tomato, cabbage, beetroot, orange, pineapple, carrot and grape
SIDE EFFECTS & RISKS OF PROBIOTICS
Dietary supplementation is required when there is a deficiency in the diet or when a person is in higher need of the specific supplement due to any physiological cause or otherwise. In case of probiotics, they are live organisms and thus need careful monitoring, storage and combination to achieve the health benefit aimed for. Children, pregnant women, geriatric and immune compromised patients should be careful with probiotics. Some known side effects of probiotics are:
- Food poisoning
- Abdominal cramps
- Severe bacterial & fungal infections
PROBIOTICS IN PEDIATRIC POPULATION
Many trials across have shown that the use of probiotics in the Pediatrics population have shown to be beneficial in treating acute viral gastroenteritis and also in preventing antibiotic associated diarrhoea in healthy children. There is also evidence to show that it prevents or reduces the chances of necrotizing enter colitis in very low birth weight infants. H Pylori infection, IBS and Chronic Ulcerative Colitis have also been benefited by the use of probiotics in children though more data is required to substantiate the same.
PROBIOTICS & COLOSTRUM
Lactoferrin (Lf) is an iron-binding milk glycoprotein that promotes the growth of selected probiotic strains. The effect of Lf on the growth and diversification of intestinal microbiota may have a positive impact on the efficacy of probiotics when used together. By using Lf as a component in pharmacological products, it may give rise to novel strategies promoting probiotic growth while conferring antimicrobial activity against multidrug-resistant microorganisms that cause life-threatening diseases, especially in neonates.