Probiotics: Beneficial Way to Improve Your Health
Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, are essential for intestinal health and the immune system. They inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and have also been shown to counteract asthma and allergies. They are found in vegetables and dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir, but also in some stored cheeses and olives.
What can destroy the balance of good bacteria?
- Antibiotics can sometimes be necessary to take when you are really sick with a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, it not only kills the disease-causing bacteria but also our good bacteria, like those in the gut. This means that the bacterial balance can be significantly disrupted after an antibiotic course.
- Chronic stress can adversely affect the good gut bacteria, and you should try to minimize and break a chronic stress pattern for the gut flora.
- A diet with a lot of sugar, fast carbohydrates and processed foods also has a negative effect on the gut flora, and the disease-causing bacteria take over more easily in a carbohydrate-rich and processed diet.
- Alcohol also has a negative effect on the intestinal flora in excessive amounts.
The gut contains several different bacteria that help with the breakdown of the food we eat and protect us against disease-causing bacteria. Several different food products claim to improve your bacterial flora.
Predominantly good gut bacteria
The majority of the hundreds of different species of bacteria found in the gut are beneficial to us. The good bacteria in the gut form a defence and can counteract harmful bacteria that are also present in the gut. They also make it difficult for foreign strains of bacteria that we can get through the diet to get a fix in the gut. By adding lactic acid bacteria, we increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut.
Probiotics have a positive effect on the gut flora
Bacteria that have a positive impact on our gut flora are called probiotics. Today, there are several dairy products such as yoghurt, juice and fruit soups enriched with probiotics. Foods containing probiotics contain cultures of living microorganisms that positively affect the gut flora. The bacteria used for lactic acid fermentation in yoghurt, on the other hand, are not probiotic. They cannot pass through the stomach and reach the intestine without being destroyed. For the bacteria to have an effect and be called probiotic, they must be able to move through the stomach’s acidic environment and reach down to the gut. Probiotics are also available in tablet form.
Prebiotics – food for beneficial bacteria
Can you improve the life of the bacteria you already have in the gut? It is actually possible to “feed” their bacteria with special sugars (oligosaccharides), so-called prebiotics.
The oligosaccharides do not break down in the stomach but reach the colon in their original form, which is essential for the effect and what differentiates these sugars from others.
In the gut, the oligosaccharides only affect certain selected bacteria and cause them to grow. Oligosaccharides can be found in onions, peas, beans and oats.
The advantage of prebiotics when compared to probiotics is that prebiotics have higher chances of getting down and improving the intestinal flora of the colon.
Prevent diarrhoea with probiotics
There are times when it may be extra advantageous to treat a little extra with probiotics. When our sensitive Swedish gut flora comes into contact with new and tougher bacteria when travelling abroad, it can be of decisive importance how well the own bacteria are.
By treating yourself with a course of probiotics a few weeks before departure and during your stay abroad, you can prevent the worst tourist diarrhoea.
Adding probiotics is also not a bad idea before and during a penicillin cure, even there to prevent diarrhoea. Penicillin has the effect of killing not only pathogenic bacteria but also beneficial bacteria. With the help of treatment of extra bacteria, your own defence can be built up while the invading bacteria are eliminated.
Important to note is that probiotic foods only exert their effect as long as they are consumed. If you stop eating the products, the result will also decrease quite quickly.
Approved health claim
Today, many studies are underway on what effects probiotics can have on our gastrointestinal flora and our immune system.
An effect of probiotics that are proven and can thus be used as an approved health claim in the marketing of probiotic products is the effect of bacteria on the breakdown of lactose. The approved health claim that may be used is: “Live yoghurt culture or soured milk improves lactose degradation in the product of individuals who have trouble breaking down lactose”.