What are Probiotics?
The word Probiotic comes from Greek word ‘pro’ which means promoting and ‘biotic’ which means life. Probiotics are living microorganisms which when consumed in controlled quantities can prove to be beneficial for the body’s functioning and health. Probiotics can be derived from various foods, beverages, and dietary supplements. Probiotic foods are a common source of extremely beneficial, healthy bacteria which are greatly essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system.
What Are The Most Common Probiotics?
Common species of Probiotics
- Bifidobacteria: Bifidobacteria is commonly used in foods and supplements. This bacterium is known to support the immune system and reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. It also helps in the breakdown of lactose into nutrients that can be easily digested.
Common strains of Bifidobacteria:
- B. animalis
- B. breve
- B. lactis
- B. longum
- B. bifidum
- B. infantis
- B. adolescentis
- Lactobacillus: Lactobacillus is a bacterium that produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose or milk sugar. Lactobacillus also produces lactic acid which helps in controlling the population of bad bacteria. These bacteria also help in increasing the absorption of minerals. Lactobacillus bacteria are natural flora of the mouth, small intestine, and vagina.
Common strains of Lactobacillus:
- L. acidophilus
- L. reuteri
- L. rhamnosus
- L. bulgarius
- L. casei
- L. fermentum
- L. gasseri
- L. Plantarum
- Some other common strains of probiotics are :
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Bacillus subtilis
Top 20 Best Probiotic Foods
- Yogurt – Yogurt is one of the best easily available sources of probiotics. These friendly bacteria help in improving the body’s overall health. Regular consumption of yogurt can play a great role in improving bone health. Consumption of yogurt can also reduce the incidence of diarrhea caused by antibiotics. It is also beneficial for individuals with hypertension and can also relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Kefir – Kefir is another diverse and potent probiotic. Kefir is nothing else but a fermented probiotic milk drink. Kefir is prepared by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk. Kefir grains are actually cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast. Kefir is known to provide various health benefits. It helps in improving bone health, curing some digestive problems and providing protection against infections.
- Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is a cultured vegetable or lacto-fermented cabbage. Unpasteurised Sauerkraut is known to contain Lactobacillus bacteria which boost the healthy flora in the intestinal tract. It supports the immune system and plays a great role in improving overall health. Sauerkraut contains some really beneficial natural compounds that have potent cancer-fighting and belly – slimming properties.
- Tempeh – Tempeh is a fermented soybean product and is a great source of probiotics. Tempeh is prepared by adding a tempeh starter to soybeans. It contains a high amount of protein and also a decent amount of vitamin – B12. It is a great substitute for meat or tofu.
- Kimchi – Kimchi is nothing else but pickled Sauerkraut. It is fermented cabbage which is extremely spicy and sour. Kimchi contains some really beneficial bacteria and is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet. Along with probiotics, it is also a rich source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.
- Miso – Miso is prepared from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley. Addition of just one tablespoon of Miso to hot water makes it an excellent soup, which is rich in probiotics like lactobacilli and Bifidus bacteria. Miso provides health benefits by neutralizing the effects of environmental pollution and preventing the effects of carcinogens.
- Kombucha – Kombucha is very healthy for our body as it supports the digestive system, and provides energy to carry out different types of activities. Kombucha is a fermented drink which is prepared from black or green tea and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast which is known as SCOBY. Kombucha provides its probiotic benefits only when it is unpasteurized.
- Salted Gherkin Pickles – Salted Gherkin Pickles are actually cucumbers that have been pickled in a solution of salt and water. Salted Gherkin Pickles are left for some time so that they get fermented by their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria. These pickles are an excellent source of beneficial probiotic bacteria that support the digestive system. It should always be kept in mind that pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
- Traditional Buttermilk – Buttermilk is actually a range of fermented dairy drinks. However, there are mainly two types of buttermilk, namely, traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is known to contain probiotics whereas; cultured buttermilk generally does not have any probiotic benefits. Along with probiotics, the traditional buttermilk is also rich in vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus.
- Natto – Natto is a Japanese dish of fermented soybeans. It is one of the most healthy food for women as it is high in vitamin – K2 which is essential for cardiovascular and bone health. It also promotes skin elasticity which prevents wrinkles. Above all, Natto is also a great source of the gut-supporting probiotics. Proper intake of Natto can also help in treating skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
- Some Types of Cheese – It is a well-known fact that most types of cheese are fermented but this doesn’t mean that all the types of cheese contain live and active cultures. The main types of cheese which maintain the beneficial bacteria are the soft cheese prepared from Goat’s milk, sheep’s milk and A2 cow’s milk. These cheese are particularly high in probiotics, including thermophillus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. Many dairy products are packed with slow – digesting, muscle – building proteins which enhance probiotic absorption. Consumption of cheese in recommended quantity may even lower the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Along with probiotics cheese is also high in calcium, vitamin – B12, phosphorus, and selenium.
- Beet Kvass – Kvass is a drink which is prepared with stale rye bread rather than barley. Kvass mainly uses lactobacilli probiotics which provides it blood and liver – cleansing properties. On the other side, Beet Kvass uses beets as a source of starch and whey to speed up the lacto-fermentation process. Beets are already rich in potassium, dietary fiber, and the fermentation process further amplifies their positive digestive properties.
- Apple cider vinegar – Apple Cider Vinegar provides a high amount of probiotics. It also provides great health benefits by controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Apple cider vinegar is insanely healthy and you can reap its benefits by using it as a salad dressing or by drinking it in small amounts regularly.
- Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is known to provide some really great health benefits. Dark Chocolate is found to be a source of both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics act as a source of food for the microbial flora present in the gut. The microbial flora present in the gut converts dark chocolate into anti-inflammatory compounds which provide enormous health benefits. Probiotics in dark chocolate help in improving the digestion and strengthening the normal flora of the gut.
- Green Peas – Green Peas contain Leuconostoc mesenteroides which are a potent probiotic and is often associated with fermentation under low – temperature conditions. Proper intake of green Peas can help in boosting up the immune system and protection of mucosal barrier against bad bugs and toxins.
- Green Olives – Olives which are brine-cured are a great source of probiotics. Olives that are saltwater brined undergo natural fermentation which is produced by the lactic acid bacteria that is naturally present on the olive. This gives these little fruits their distinctive flavor. Few strains of Lactobacillus have been isolated in Olives out of which one strain shows a great potential in maintaining a balanced gut microbiota, and is important for the proper functioning of the digestive system. It can also help in relieving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Beer and Wine – Beer and Wine are fermented alcoholic beverages and are a good source of probiotics. These beverages can provide some great benefits when consumed in moderation. Beer is known to increase the level of good cholesterol and decrease blood clot formation. Whereas wine is an excellent source of antioxidants which help in fighting away free radicals which cause inflammation.
- Sourdough Bread – Sourdough is actually a fermentation process in which wild yeast and friendly bacteria break down the gluten and sugar in the wheat flour and then convert them into beneficial proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Consumption of Sourdough bread helps in improving overall gastrointestinal motility and function. It ensures optimal digestion and boosts up the immune system of the body.
- Microalgae – Microalgae basically refers to ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chlorella, and blue-green algae. Microalgae act as prebiotics which nourishes the probiotics already present in the gut. Prebiotic foods lead to a significant increase in the number of beneficial bacteria which help in improving gastrointestinal health. They are also a great source of energy.
- Coconut Kefir – Coconut Kefir is prepared by fermenting the juice of young coconuts with kefir grains. It is a great – tasting drink which offers some really beneficial probiotics as offered by traditional dairy Kefir. Coconut Kefir contains several strains that are good for the health. It helps in improving bone health and curing certain digestive problems.
Benefits of Probiotics:
- They boost up the immune system.
- They produce short-chain fatty acids that maintain the health of the gut.
- Probiotics are those friendly bacteria that hinder the growth of disease-causing pathogens.
- They help in maintaining a balanced gut microbiota and therefore are essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system.
- Probiotics also help in preventing vaginal infections, autoimmune diseases, skin ailments and urinary infections.
- They help the body in the production of Vitamin B and Vitamin K.
- They are known to improve overall gastrointestinal motility and function.
- Proper intake of probiotics ensures optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.
- It is always advised to consult your doctor before taking any kind of probiotic foods.
- You should not take any supplement more than the recommended dose as ingestion of more than 1 to 2 billion probiotic cells each day might cause stomach discomfort and gas.
- Individuals with immunocompromised health state, cardio-valvular disease and those who are already taking broad-spectrum antibiotics should avoid taking probiotics unless prescribed.
- Patients who take sulfasalazine drug should not take any supplement containing L. acidophilus without doctor’s prescription.
- Avoid taking probiotic foods and supplements if you are allergic to any of its ingredients.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking probiotics.
Frequently Asked Questions
|Are all probiotic supplements the same?||There is a big misconception among many individuals that all probiotic supplements are same. In fact, there is a great difference between different probiotic supplements as probiotic concentration varies from one supplement to another.|
|What side – effects should I expect when I start taking probiotics?||Symptoms like bloating, flatulence (gas), abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea generally appear within the first few days of probiotic therapy. This all happens because our digestive system rebalances in favor of the good bacteria. These symptoms are self – subsiding but if they persist, then you should try to reduce your dosage with your doctor’s advice.|
|Are probiotics safe for children?||Yes, probiotics are safe for children. Both probiotic foods and supplements are suitable for children. Probiotic supplements are available as chewable tablets, capsules, and powder which can be given to the children. There are some probiotic supplements which are even suitable for infants.|
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