How can bacteria be good for you? All about probiotics.
There are many different types of bacteria living inside of our bodies, some are bad, but some are very, very good. An example of good bacteria are probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that are great for your health, especially your digestive tract.
These helpful, microscopic organisms naturally occur within your body, but can also be found in several different foods, and nowadays are also packaged into a variety of tablets and supplements. The root of the word probiotic comes from the Greek word pro, meaning “promoting” and biotic, meaning “life.”
The introduction of the concept of using bacteria for our benefit is generally attributed to Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel Prize winner, who studied the impact of yoghurt on Bulgarian peasants, who were living longer because of this bacteria-rich food. He suggested in 1907 the dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace the harmful microbes with useful ones. However it was only in the mid 1990’s that major studies into the health benefits of probiotics came into existence.
Studies are still ongoing as to exactly how probiotics work, however the most popular understanding is that when the body loses ‘good’ bacteria, probiotics help to replace them, and that by introducing probiotics, they help balance the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria to keep your body working like it should.
The most common use of probiotics is to help with digestive problems, and since they are now readily available in yoghurts, chocolates and supplements, they’ve become a popular addition to many lives. There are many different types of bacteria that are classified as probiotics, but most come from two groups: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Lactobacillus is probably the most common probiotic and is found in yoghurt and other fermented foods, and is thought to help those who can’t digest lactose. Bifidobacterium can also be found in some dairy products and is thought to help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome amongst other conditions. Probiotics are most commonly known for assisting in the digestive cycle, with a large amount of these ‘good’ bacteria are found within the gut. The most common prescribing of probiotics usually takes place alongside antibiotics, as it is thought to replace the bacteria that the antibiotics kill.
In the United States probiotics are a regulated substance, however not alongside medication but rather with other food substances. They are considered to be safe for most people, however this is still not 100% confirmed and as with any other substance, you should always be cautious of consuming something potentially unknown to your body.
For more information, watch this video as Patricia Hibberd talks about probiotics.