In addition, the specialized media as well as the general public often rightly recommend including probiotics in the diet.
What are probiotics?
The term probiotic comes from the Greek meaning “pro-life”. In the past, probiotics were defined as microorganisms, which once ingested, helped regulate the intestinal flora. Currently, the preferred definition of probiotics is as follows: a food or food supplement containing live microorganisms that bring positive effects to the consumer, when ingested in sufficient quantity.
The most common lines of probiotics
The bacteria present in probiotic products are resistant to the action of gastric juice and manage to reach the intestine without significant modification. At this level of the digestive tract, these bacteria help the digestive process and help regulate the intestinal flora. Common examples of probiotic bacteria include Lactobacillus, Streptococcus or Bifidobacteria.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
In recent years, the understanding of the intestinal flora and the role of probiotics in the digestive process has progressed considerably. Several studies have shown that maintaining a healthy intestinal flora brings several health benefits and helps prevent certain chronic diseases such as diabetes and certain cancers of the digestive tract. This is why the consumption of probiotics has gained importance as a food capable of balancing the intestinal flora and playing an important role in prevention.
The consumption of these foods rich in probiotics bring more particularly the following positive effects:
- – Improved digestion and prevention of constipation
- – Improvement of gastric acidity, prevention of gastritis and ulcers, action also on diarrhea
- – Increased absorption of vitamins and nutrients, such as B-complex vitamins, essential amino acids, as well as calcium and iron.
- – Strengthening of the immune system, following stimulation of macrophages (important defense cells)
- – Decrease in the amount of pathogenic bacteria and protection of the intestinal mucosa, preventing conditions such as flatulence (bloating), colitis or diverticulitis.
In addition to all these benefits, probiotics are particularly important in patients undergoing antibiotic treatment. This class of drugs destroys the intestinal flora, hence the interest of probiotics to reconstitute it.
Probiotics in the prevention of colon cancer
Another important effect of probiotics is the prevention of certain types of cancer. According to a study published in the scientific journal The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the bacteria found in probiotics help prevent genetic mutations that lead to the development of tumors, including those at the origin of colon cancer.
Nowadays, there are many probiotic foods, notably bearing the name of food supplement, sold in supermarkets, specialized stores and even in pharmacies. However, there are also natural foods to include in your diet.
Among the best known are dairy products such as milk, yogurts and lacto-fermented foods such as cabbage and sauerkraut.
Some studies are currently being carried out with other foods with a possible probiotic effect such as soy and fermented products (eg tofu), meat, fish and seed and vegetable extracts.
It should also be noted that a healthy and balanced diet is fundamental to guarantee the effect of probiotics. In the event of an unbalanced diet, the growth of bacteria with a positive effect on health could be impaired.
How many probiotics to take based on age
The amount of probiotics varies with age. In adults, the recommended daily amount is 5 billion colony forming units (CFU), for at least 5 days. This corresponds to the consumption of approximately 2 to 3 yogurts containing probiotics per day. In children, specialists have not yet fixed an exact quantity, but studies have shown that probiotics can already be integrated into the diet in children from the age of 18 months.
Probiotics or prebiotics, what’s the difference?
Another relatively used term is “prebiotic”. Prebiotics are fibers that serve as nutrients for bacteria with a positive effect on gut health. Two examples of these prebiotics are fruto-oligosaccharide (FOS) and inulin. Foods containing FOS are of plant origin such as tomatoes, onions, bananas, oats or even honey. Inulin is found in chicory roots, onions and asparagus.