We often see print and TV commercials promoting probiotics for better health, but are they really good for us? What are probiotics and what are the health benefits that we can derive from it?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host according to the definition of World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The most common probiotics are Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, Escherichia, Enterococcus, Bacillus and Saccharomyces. These probiotics may be found in milk, yogurt, juices, soy milk, miso, cereals and food bars.
Probiotics aid us in digestion and disease prevention. It adds more “good bacteria” to our body’s existing ones thereby giving us more protection from harmful bacteria that may have been ingested through our food.
The other reported benefits of probiotics include: helping reduce risks of certain diarrheal illnesses, aiding lactose intolerant people, enhancing immune function, lowering cholesterol levels, protection against tooth decay, vaginal infection & skin infections, and for some people replacing good bacteria killed by antibiotics.
Probiotics are generally safe and helpful in improving our health. However, since each individual has a unique mix of microbes and bacteria in their bodies, we should get to know our probiotics before taking them.
Although unusual, the side effects of probiotics include: bloating, gas, and stomach ache. Critically ill or patients with underlying health conditions may be prone to serious and harmful side effects from probiotics.
In general, probiotics provide us with good health benefits but just like in buying food and nutritional supplements, a responsible consumer checks the label first before ingesting products.