A simple guide to Probiotics
Probiotic bacteria exhibit specific properties that enable them to compete with harmful bacteria at target sites. These properties include the breakdown of food components, stimulation of digestive function, and reinforcement of immune resistance.
Probiotics have been used in various diets for decades due to their positive effects on human health. They are defined as "microorganisms that, when given to the host in sufficient quantities, improve their health."
Our bodies have approximately one kilogram of bacteria, which can be divided into good and bad. Probiotics introduce various beneficial bacterial strains that help us restore weakened intestinal flora.
Probiotics assist in food digestion, synthesizing vitamins, amino acids, and short-chain fatty acids that nourish intestinal cells and promote bowel movement. They are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system and immune system.
Did you know that our gastrointestinal tract is populated with billions of bacteria, and we have more than 500 different bacterial strains?
The fact that we are born with billions of bacteria in our digestive tract indicates that not all bacteria are harmful. Some beneficial bacteria are necessary for properly functioning the digestive tract and the immune system.
Most of the bacteria found in probiotic products today belong to lactic acid bacteria (LAB), most commonly lactobacilli or bifidobacteria. The most common probiotic bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Other common types include Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus.
Probiotics and Prebiotics - How Do They Differ?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that contribute to the host's health in sufficient quantities, such as improving digestion and enhancing the immune system. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are non-digestible fibers that contribute to the better survival and growth of probiotic bacteria and other health-friendly microorganisms in the body.
When we combine probiotics and prebiotics in one preparation, we get synbiotics. Consuming appropriately chosen probiotics, prebiotics, or synbiotics can contribute to improved health.
How Do Probiotics Work?
The primary role of probiotics, or good bacteria, is to maintain a healthy balance in the body. Think of it as maintaining the body in a neutral state. When we get sick, harmful bacteria enter the body, and their numbers increase, disrupting the body's balance.
Good bacteria work by fighting against harmful bacteria and restoring balance in the body, helping you feel better.
Probiotic bacteria possess specific properties that enable them to compete with harmful bacteria at targeted sites. These properties include breaking down food components, promoting gastrointestinal function, and strengthening immune resistance.
To combat pathogenic microbes, probiotic bacteria take over their binding sites on mucous membranes and produce various antimicrobial substances, including acids. This changes the environment, making it unfavorable for pathogenic organisms.
The action of probiotics is attributed to reduced susceptibility to infections and allergies, as well as a better response to stress, leading to improved psychophysical well-being. Today, we understand that the microbiota plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis and a healthy gut.
Probiotics and Their Benefits
The benefits of probiotics encompass various applications, not only for specific body parts but practically throughout the body.
Some studies suggest that they are beneficial in treating digestive disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases. Probiotics for the oral cavity are said to prevent the development of dental caries (tooth decay). There is also much talk about the benefits of probiotics for strengthening the immune system.
Probiotics and the Immune System
In the gut, our body encounters the external environment on the largest surface area, so as much as 70% of the immune system's activity comes from the "intestinal immune system." The intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in the proper development of both specific and nonspecific immune systems.
The microbiota and the immune system coexist. The intestinal microbiota influences the function and development of the immune system, while the immune system affects the microbiota.
Probiotics have been proven to have a positive impact on the host's immune system and the healthy bacteria present in the gut. Probiotics enhance the immune system by altering humoral and cellular immune responses.
Probiotics for Digestion
Adding lactic acid bacteria to the diet can improve digestion and help protect the intestinal mucosa, where crucial immune cells responsible for the overall health of the body reside.
Probiotics also maintain normal acidity in the intestines, preventing the proliferation of harmful and conditionally harmful microorganisms, and enhancing the defensive capabilities of the intestinal mucosa.
Probiotics can be used for preventive and supportive treatment of diarrhea, bloating, antibiotic therapy, and other digestive disorders.
Probiotics and Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is an infectious disease of hard tooth tissues caused by four key factors: sugar, sensitive tooth tissue, the presence of oral bacteria in dental plaque, primarily Streptococcus mutans, and time. Scientists are striving to develop food products with probiotic activity that could reduce the presence of these bacteria.
According to the results of numerous studies, probiotic bacteria, especially those from the genera Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, appear to have an inhibitory effect on Streptococcus mutans in saliva.
Studies conducted so far have included various probiotic products, including various types of yogurts and even ice cream. In these experiments, species such as Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus have proven effective in reducing the presence of streptococci in saliva, which could also lead to a reduction in the adverse effects of acid on tooth tissues.
Probiotics are also attributed to numerous other beneficial effects, such as improving lactose metabolism, treating gastrointestinal diseases (e.g., chronic inflammatory bowel disease), allergic diseases (e.g., atopic dermatitis), weight reduction, lowering blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
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