Probiotics 101: Everything You Need To Know About Probiotics


There has been a lot of buzz around probiotics. Everyone has been claiming that they are gamechanger but do you know what they actually are? Or are you following a bandwagon and blindly consuming them?

Here is everything you need to know before you include them in your diet.

What Are Probiotics?

When taken in sufficient numbers, probiotics are living bacteria that offer a number of health advantages. The Greek terms “pro” (for) and “biotic” (life) are the roots of the English word “probiotic,” which literally translates as “for life.” These microorganisms, which normally exist as bacteria or yeast in the human digestive tract, are crucial to sustaining general health.

Bacteria that are ‘good’ for health are known as probiotics. Although some yeasts are also regarded as probiotics, they are typically bacteria. They function by repopulating the digestive tract and balancing the microbiota in the intestines. The Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are the most widely utilized probiotics. 

The gut microbiome, which significantly affects general health, is modulated by probiotics. The vast community of microbes that makes up the gut microbiota is crucial for immunological, metabolic, and digestive health. A disruption in the microbiome’s delicate equilibrium can result in a number of health problems, such as obesity, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.

How Do Probiotics Work?

Probiotics can assist in re-establishing the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome when taken orally. The population of microbes that inhabit the gastrointestinal system and are vital to many aspects of health, including digestion, immunological response, and mental well-being, is known as the gut microbiome.

According to research, probiotics can alter the gut microbiome for the better by boosting the population of good bacteria while lowering the number of dangerous ones. A probiotic pill comprising a strain of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium was found to enhance the amount of these helpful bacteria in the gut, leading to better gut health, according to a study

Additionally, they can produce substances that are advantageous to the host. A few probiotics, for instance, have been demonstrated to create short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and enhance gut barrier function. Furthermore, lactic acid, which is produced by some probiotics, can assist in preventing the growth of dangerous bacteria in the stomach. 

In addition to their effects on the gut microbiome, probiotics may also modulate the immune system. Research has shown that certain strains of probiotics can stimulate the production of cytokines, which are signalling molecules that help regulate immune function.

The Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have been studied extensively for their potential health benefits. Some of the benefits include:

1. Enhancing Digestive Health

Proper digestion and nutrition absorption depends on a healthy balance of gut flora, which probiotics can help maintain. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and diarrhoea are among the digestive illnesses that probiotics have been demonstrated in a research to be useful in treating. Additionally, another research hints that probiotics can help with bloating, and constipation, and can lower your risk of developing diverticulitis and other digestive issues.

2. Improved Immune Response

The immune system is in charge of protecting the body from dangerous organisms like bacteria and viruses. According to research, probiotics can improve immune function by encouraging the creation of antibodies and boosting immune cell activity. Probiotics can also lessen inflammation within the body, preventing chronic illnesses and enhancing general health.

3. Treatment and Prevention of Infections

Probiotics can aid in the prevention and treatment of a variety of illnesses, especially those that impact the urinary and digestive tracts. For instance, consuming them can help treat bacterial vaginosis (BV) and lower the chance of women getting urinary tract infections (UTIs). Additionally, thet can lessen the severity of or help prevent respiratory infections like the flu and the common cold.

4. Potential Cancer-Preventing Qualities

Certain probiotics may have anti-cancer properties, particularly in the prevention of colon cancer, according to some studies. This, according to researchers, may be caused by probiotics’ capacity to lower gut inflammation and create specific chemicals that may have anti-cancer properties.

5. Benefits For Mental Health

Recent research has raised the possibility of a connection between gut health and mental wellness. Probiotics have been demonstrated to improve mood and may be useful in the treatment of anxiety and depression, among other mental health conditions. This is believed to be because the gut-brain axis connects the two organs and because the bacteria in the gut have an impact on how well the brain functions.

 Who should take a probiotic supplement?

Probiotics are often well-tolerated and safe, and the majority of people can benefit from taking them regularly. However, some groups might profit more than others, such as:

1. Patients With Digestive Problems:

Probiotics can benefit patients with digestive problems, especially those who suffer from illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

2. Antibiotic users:

Antibiotics can alter the gut microbiota’s normal equilibrium, resulting in diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Probiotics can aid in microbiome restoration and guard against diarrhoea brought on by antibiotics.

3. Immune system weakness:

Probiotics can assist improve immune function, which is crucial for those with immune system weakness.

Do Probiotics Work?

The type, dosage, and medical condition being treated all affect how successful probiotics are. While others have not, some probiotic strains have been proven to be successful in treating particular medical conditions.

How Safe Are Probiotics?

In general, probiotics are regarded as secure and well-tolerated. However, there are some people who may need to exercise caution when taking them. They can occasionally result in unpleasant side effects like bloating, gas, and diarrhoea. 

People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those receiving chemotherapy, may be more vulnerable to infections brought on by specific probiotic strains. Additionally, before taking probiotics, people who have recently undergone surgery or who have a catheter in place should consult their doctor because there is a risk of infection.

In rare instances, they can lead to life-threatening infections in those who are critically unwell or have specific medical conditions. Probiotic strains that are uncommon in food or supplements or other sources of nutrition may be the source of these infections.

Before taking them, people with compromised immune systems or major medical disorders should speak with their doctor.

How to Add Probiotics to Your Diet?

probiotics food

Adding probiotics to your diet can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and even reduce the risk of certain diseases. Here are some ways you can add them to your diet:

1. Probiotic Foods

One of the best sources of probiotics is fermented food. Using helpful microorganisms, the process of fermentation turns carbohydrates into acids or alcohol. Through this process, the food is not only preserved but also has more nutrients and probiotics added to it.

Popular fermented meals high in probiotics include the following:

Yoghurt: Yogurt is a popular source of probiotics that help strengthen the immune system and enhance gut health. Keep an eye out for yoghurt brands that include live, active cultures.

Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that includes a variety of good bacteria and yeast strains. It also contains a lot of minerals, amino acids, and vitamins.

Kimchi: Kimchi is a Korean dish that is made from fermented vegetables, typically cabbage or radish. It is rich in probiotics, fibre, and antioxidants.

Read More: 7 Common Signs Your Body Might Be Vitamin Deficient

2. Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic supplements are another way to add beneficial bacteria to your diet. These supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and powders. They contain high concentrations of probiotics and are often formulated with specific strains of bacteria that offer targeted health benefits.

When choosing a probiotic supplement, look for products that contain at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per serving. It’s also important to choose a supplement that contains strains of bacteria that have been shown to be effective in clinical studies.

3. Prebiotic Meals

A form of fibre known as prebiotic nourishes the good bacteria in your gut. Eating foods high in prebiotics can aid in boosting the quantity and variety of probiotics in your gut.

The following are some of the top prebiotic sources:

1. Bananas: In addition to being a good source of vitamins and minerals, bananas also contain prebiotic fibre.

2. Garlic: Studies have indicated that garlic strengthens the immune system and is high in prebiotic fibre.

3. Onions: Along with vitamins and minerals, onions are a good source of prebiotic fibre.

4. Artichokes: A prebiotic fibre with a high inulin content, artichokes are a root vegetable.

4. Other Probiotic-Rich Foods

In addition to fermented foods and prebiotic foods, there are several other foods that contain probiotics, including:

1. Miso: Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning that is made from fermented soybeans. It is rich in probiotics and can improve digestion and boost the immune system.

2. Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that is rich in probiotics and protein. It is also low in fat and calories.

3. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a fermented dairy product that is rich in probiotics and can improve gut health.

 What To Look For In A Probiotics? 

1. Spectrum of Strains

Strain variety is the first factor to take into account when selecting a probiotic. It’s crucial to pick a supplement with a selection of probiotic strains because they can all affect the body in different ways. A product should contain at least three to four different probiotic strains, ideally a combination of both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.

2. Units that Form Colonies

The quantity of colony-forming units (CFUs) in the supplement is the following factor to take into account. The number of live bacteria in a supplement is measured in CFUs; the greater the CFU count, the more healthy bacteria you’re ingesting. Although some products may contain as much, a good probiotic supplement should have at least 10 billion CFUs per serving. 

3. Storage Stability

Shelf stability is a key consideration as well. Since probiotics are live bacteria, heat, moisture, and oxygen can be harmful to them. In order for a supplement to be effective on the trip from the manufacturer to the retailer to your home, it must be specially prepared to be shelf-stable. Be sure to read the label carefully because some products need to be refrigerated in order to keep their potency.

4. Prebiotics

Indigestible fibres known as prebiotics provide nourishment for the probiotic bacteria in your stomach. They aid in feeding and promoting the development of advantageous bacteria, which can improve the condition of your entire digestive system. To maximize the advantages, look for a probiotic supplement that also contains prebiotics like inulin or fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

5. Quality Assurance

Last but not least, it’s critical to pick a probiotic supplement from a reliable supplier with a solid track record of quality control. Choose a company with a solid reputation in the market and choose a product that has undergone independent testing for potency and purity.

Our Final Thoughts

Probiotics are good for your health. You should try to naturally bring them into your diet however, if you feel that you need additional sources, consult your doctor and they can recommend supplements depending on your body’s requirements.