Probiotics vs antibiotics. Flickr image by Post Memes.
Probiotics - the basics
Before we have a discussion on probiotics, let's go through some of the definitions so that we are clear of what we are talking about.
Probiotics - these are good live bacteria that help your body stay healthy, especially your gut. They are found naturally in your body and also in some foods and supplements.
Prebiotics - substances that help probiotics to grow and thrive. These are usually carbohydrates that your body can't digest. Some good sources of prebiotics are asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, and legumes.
Anitbiotics - drugs that are used to treat infections. They kill bacteria - both bad and good.
Types of probiotics
There several types of probiotics but the more commons ones fall into 2 groups.
- Lactobacillus. There are many species of this type but the very common ones found in food and supplements are Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. acidophilus DDS-1, Lactobacillus blugaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus plantarium, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus johnsonii, and Lactobacillus gasseri.
Fermented foods like yogurt contain this type of probiotics.
- Bifidobacteria. This probiotics is found mostly in the colon. The species mostly used as probiotics are Bifodbacterium bifidum, Bifodbacterium lactis, Bifodbacterium longum, Bifodbacterium breve, Bifodbacterium infantis, Bifodbacterium thermophilum, and Bifodbacterium pseudolongum.
How do probiotics work
Basically they work by doing the following:
- When you lose "good" bacteria in your body (like after you take antibiotics, for example), probiotics can help replace them. It's recommended that you should take probiotics about 1 to 2 days after you've completed your antibiotics treatment. You should also not take probiotics while you're on antibiotics because the antibiotics will kill all the good bacteria.
- They can lower the amount of "bad" bacteria in your system that can cause infections or other problems.
- They can help balance your "good" and "bad" bacteria to keep your body working like it should.
However in order to get the best value for your probiotics you must always take your probiotics with prebiotics.
Benefits of probiotics
These are some of the benefits of probiotics...
1. Weight loss
2. High blood pressure
3. Irritable bowel syndrome
4. Constipation and diarrhoea
6. Colon cancer
8. Vaginal infections
Sources of probiotics
By now you're wondering what a good source of probiotics is. Here are some suggestions of foods that contain high levels of probiotics.
1. Yogurt which is not pasteurized and not sweetened. Pasteurized yogurt has very low or no live bacteria because the heat kills them. Secondly, sweetened ones are sugar loaded and this promotes pathogenic bacteria.
2. Fermented vegetables of any kind -cabbage, carrots, kale, collards, celery spiced with herbs like ginger and garlic
3. Lassi - consume the non-sweetened version
4. Kim chee
Okay, let's face it. How often can you eat fermented foods. You may not even like fermented foods in the first place.
Secondly, no one really knows how much bacteria are in these foods. Remember that those who produce these foods don't have a label stating their probiotic content.
This is where dietary supplements come in. All good dietary supplement manufacturers state on their labels the amount of bacteria they contain.
If you need a recommended brand, write to firstname.lastname@example.org