Every few years, there comes along a food trend that suddenly catches everyone’s fancy. From organic to gluten-free and super foods to probiotics, they all have their unique functionalities. Today, we intend to take a keen look at probiotics and decipher their role in enhancing the health of children and adults alike.
What are Probiotics?
The human body is made up of bad and good bacteria. Simply put, bad bacteria causes disease while good bacteria helps keep you healthy. Probiotics are ‘live’ micro-organisms or ‘friendly’ bacteria that are good for your health. The body produces tons of bacteria by itself, and most of it is healthy. Why then, is there a need to supplement it?
Children fall prey to all kinds of illnesses. However, an illness that warrants antibiotics tends to 1) wash away good bacteria from the body and 2) disturb the balance between good and bad bacteria. To help restore this balance and keep the body working optimally, probiotics are recommended.
Benefits for the gut
It is believed that 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. Since probiotics aid the movement of food in the gut, they help treat common conditions in this area of the body.
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
- Diarrhea caused by a virus or bacteria
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Mostly helpful in the above cases, there is limited evidence to support some of the other health claims made by it.
- Reducing allergies
- Treating skin conditions like eczema
- Curing vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Treating oral health
- Reducing the incidence of certain types of cancer
If you do not wish to take the dietary-supplement route, consuming these foods on a regular basis will up your probiotic intake.
- Greek Yogurt has a much higher concentration of helpful bacteria than regular yoghurt. Children tend to adapt to its creamy texture easily.
- Unpasteurized Sauerkraut or fermented cabbage is a great side dish, more for adults though.
- Dark Chocolate with cacao content of 70% and above.
- Fresh, seasonal green peas unlike the packaged, canned variety.
- Green olives soaked in brine.
- Pickle and Kimchi.
- Beverages like Kombucha Tea, Kefir, Soy Milk and Miso Soup.
The very many types of bacteria can be classified into two main groups of probiotics: Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium, among other groups. However, each probiotic has a different effect on the body and cannot be used interchangeably. In other words, if a particular probiotic works for a certain health condition, it might not work for another.
There is a world of a difference between probiotic supplements recommended by your Doctor versus what you get in probiotic enriched foods such as yoghurt and sauerkraut. Also, in case of the latter, there is no way to ascertain if the product contains enough bacteria to produce the desired effect.
Lastly, while the FDA regulates probiotics like food not medicine, it is recommended to refer to your doctor before administering them to children, the elderly, those with a problem in their immune system and with serious health conditions.