In the recent years, more light has been shed on the role of gut bacteria in many areas of our health. This includes areas such as digestive system, allergic or autoimmune diseases, as well as cardiovascular related. As such, this has fueled a demand for probiotics supplementation and it is indeed getting more and more common.
As more and more research appears pinpointing specific strains of good bacteria which may help in certain diseases, it just serves to point out 1 thing: We need a wide array of good bacteria, isn't it?
Before we can understand whether probiotics work, we will need to first understand the role of good bacteria in our gut system. In summary, it helps with both our immune system, and our digestive processes.
Everyone of us has at least 1000 different species of gut bacteria living in our intestines. In fact, our gut bacteria composition is unique according to our living environment and the food that we intake. The types of bacteria strains in our gut system can adjust very quickly (in just 1 day!) to a change in our diet.
Why do you think this happens? This is because, the good bacteria living in our intestines also feed on the same food that we are eating. Hence, our food also acts as nourishment to them, keeping them alive. However, depending on the food they get, some strains survive, while others perish.
Probiotics supplements come in various forms in the market. It could be in capsules, tablets, and powders; or in cultured milk drinks, yoghurt with live and active cultures in them. Have you ever looked at their ingredient label before? Here are two commonly used probiotics supplements.
Can you spot which are the strains of good bacteria in each of these label? 🙂 How many strains are present?
As mentioned earlier, we have at least 1000 different species of good bacteria in our body. With only fewer than 6 strains of bacteria in probiotics supplements, will it be able to provide the health effects as advertised?
Then again, with all the differing diets and lifestyle people have, this results in different gut bacteria types in their system. How would we know for sure, that it is this one or two specific types that they definitely need?
While short-term consumption of probiotics supplements may not pose as a significant danger, data on long-term safety are very limited. Also, probiotics also may trigger allergic reactions such as breathing difficulties, hive, vomiting, diarrhea and coughing.
In those with weakened immune systems, the young and the elderly, probiotics may induce potentially fatal conditions. Hence, its important to seek advice from a healthcare provider before making use of it.
That is why the European Union has yet to approve any of the claims of health benefits on probiotics supplements.
Dietary fibre can only be found in fruits and vegetables. Having more of such fibre helps to keep our gut system clean and allow for good bacteria growth. At the same time, the soluble fibre provides a good source nutrients for good bacteria to feed on as well.
Soybeans, soy milk, tofu are good choices of foods that help to proliferate good bacteria growth.
1) Jau-Fei Chen, PhD. Nutrition.Immunity.Longevity. Extra Excellence (s) Pte Ltd. 2015.
2) Probiotics: In Depth, by National Institute of Health (US).
3) Probiotics Health Claims, by Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
4) In Defense of Fibre: How Changing Your Diet Changes your Gut Bacteria. by Time.
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