Probiotic bacteria, the innate army to the rescue
All you hygiene and hand sanitiser fanatics/enthusiasts, I have got some news. Scrub, wash, sanitise all you want; we will continue to be a hotbed of the microscopic ‘creepy crawlies’.
“Did you know, bacterial cells are omnipresent; right from our skin to the dark deep recesses of our guts. These bacterial cells outnumber our human cells by the power of 10.”
Although this bit could have made you wince, but the good side to it is, these bacteria are far from creepy and much much beneficial to us humans. Surprised? That is because these are not your garden-variety illness causing bacteria. These are a different kind called ‘Probiotics’ or the good bacteria. Benevolence reflects in their name, pro- means for and biotics- means life.
The World Health Organisation defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host (humans).” We get these bacteria right from birth via contact, method of birth and even from our mom. Although, probiotic bacteria are as diverse as us humans, the ones in our gut belong to 2 strains namely Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
The war within
Did you know, our body is in a state of war with the probiotic bacteria waging it against the bad bacteria (from food, bad hygiene, other people, you know many avenues). Ideally, the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria should be 85:15. Maintain this ratio and you don’t have anything to worry about!!
The 85:15 rule – Probiotic bacteria must be the dominant resident so that they can keep a check on the illness causing bad ones we commonly encounter!
How probiotic bacteria help in health?
Probiotics is a very hot topic of research with new studies unraveling some more information about these microscopic residents. The benefits of probiotics in various conditions are listed below.
- Diarrhoea: Studies have shown probiotics to be beneficial in treating diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. Not only this, it has shown good results even in treating traveller’s diarrhoea (when you try out tempting local foods from the ‘thelewala’) and antibiotic use linked diarrhoea.
- Cholesterol issues: Yes, in a study, probiotics were shown to reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Irritable bowel syndrome: Probiotics greatly benefit in gastrointestinal issues. Studies have shown that a particular strain namely Bifidobacterium lactis could help in managing IBS.
- Dental toubles: Probiotics may help keep tooth decay, periodontal disease and other oral health issues away. Might save you from the dentist!
- Blood pressure: Some studies have found that probiotics can also help in regulating blood pressure.
- Brain function: I reserved the most interesting bit for the last! Studies have shown that probiotic bacteria can alter brain’s neurochemistry favourably, reducing anxiety and depression! Fascinating.
Although there are reams of research on probiotics and the conditions it is helpful in, researchers still feel the need for some more studies.
Probiotic bacteria in the diet
Get these friendly bacteria from fermented products such as curd, buttermilk, fermented snacks such as idli, dhokla etc. However, no one is aware of how much and which strain of probiotics are present in fermented foods. So commercial probiotic drinks, tablets can be consumed too.
Food for thought
Just as we need foods to survive, probiotics also need substrates (high funda name for food in the bacterial world). Prebiotics are just that. Again, prebiotics are another fancy name for fibres which are fermented by the bacteria. Provide the tiny heroes in your gut with fibre rich foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, whole foods among many.
Now, will you look at ‘creepy crawlies’ in a different way?
- What are probiotics? What are the health benefits of probiotics?. Medical News Therapy. Accessed on: 16/12/2015
- Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You. Eat right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Accessed on: 16/12/2015
- What are probiotics? WebMD. Accessed on: 16/12/2015