What are probiotics? The Food and Agricultural Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host.” Probiotics explained are simply bacteria found in dairy such as yogurt. The use of this type of bacteria improves lactose digestion in people who lack it and has positive effects on the immune system as well.
For example, suppose you develop a yeast infection. Most people would agree that consuming yogurt would alleviate the symptoms. This is because of the probiotics contained in yogurt. A yeast infection is caused by different organisms. Lactobacilli is present in a healthy vagina. Conversely, lack of it causes yeast infections. Therefore, consuming yogurt decreases the incidence of yeast infections and lactobacilli controls the duration and incidence as well.
Moreover, studies have shown that three or more servings of dairy products a day have lowered levels of obesity. Thus, dairy products combined with probiotic bacteria can improve health.
Other conditions in which probiotics play a major role are: diarrhea, chronic use of antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance, hypertension, cancer, high cholesterol, and certain allergies. What effect does probiotics have in common with all of these conditions?
Probiotics alleviate diarrhea and has been an effective treatment, especially in children. While antibiotics are used to kill bacteria, it is also true that they can kill off good bacteria as well. Probiotics replace the good bacteria that are lost. As it relates to irritable bowl syndrome, probiotics has been known to provide some symptom relief from diarrhea and bloating. Inflammatory bowel disease when treated with high levels of probiotics has shown to increase the period in which a person is free from this disease.
For those who cannot tolerate lactose, studies have concluded that consuming yogurt and unfermented dairy products aided in the digestion of lactose. So too, probiotics have been shown to reduce the systolic pressure in those suffering from hypertension.
Cancer causing agents such as chemicals can reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The use of probiotics has shown to decrease one’s exposure to cancer risks. Moreover, probiotic cultures in the form of fermented milk reduced bladder cancer. Studies to determine the effects of probiotics in dairy foods have shown a reduction in cases of high cholesterol. However, research is still ongoing.
Finally, a recent study reported that there was a 50% drop in incidence of atopic eczema in children who were receiving a probiotic supplement. Moreover, it was concluded that exposure to specific microbes early in a child’s life may also decrease allergies as well.
Probiotics and its utilization can help to treat acute intestinal infections, aid in the digestion of lactose, improve health, and possibly reduced risk of disease. Studies are ongoing to determine the benefits of probiotics. However, so far there seems to be positive result with no negative. As long as you are not allergic to dairy then eating for probiotic reasons will surely enhance your diet.