Probiotics are microorganisms that are integral to a healthy human gut. As human understanding of the role of gut micro-organisms increases, we have realized that there exists a linkage between the gut microbiota and the brain. Not just that the gut microbiome is being surmised to play a critical role in the prevention of many lifestyle ailments from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Probiotics are an integral part of the gut microbiota.
An overview of the health benefits of these bacteria is summarized below:
Each individual’s gut has a unique set of microbiota with only less than thirty percent of the gut microbiota being common. The microorganism composition keeps changing throughout the life of an individual. It is influenced by the food that we eat and the environment that we are exposed too.
Gut microorganisms aid in the digestion of food and help protect the body from external infections. They assist the digestion process helping release nutrition from the food and making it available to the body. Healthy and balanced gut microbiota is critical to a healthy gut and a healthy body.
Misbalances in the gut microbiota can lead to diarrhea, constipation, inflammatory bowel, and other gut ailments. Even diabetes and allergies have been connected to the state of the gut microbiome. (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics)
Probiotics are a group of beneficial microorganisms found in the gut. These when taken in adequate quantities are seen to confer a health benefit to the host. (World Health Organization).
The protective role of probiotics for digestion is now fairly well established. Ritchie and Romanuk, 2012 did a meta-analysis of 74 studies, 84 trials, and 10351 patients. This analysis showed that probiotics are beneficial adjuncts in the treatment and prevention of gastrointestinal diseases.
There are a number of food and food supplements that contain probiotic bacteria. These include dietary supplements, pharmaceutical products, medical foods, infant formula, fermented foods like fresh yogurt, fermented milk, aged cheese, kimchi, craft beer, miso, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or pickles, sourdough bread, etc.
Clinical recommendation for those affected by digestive ailments is placed at 5 billion CFUs for children and 10–20 CFUs for adults (Kligler et al., 2008). The daily recommended dose for healthy adults is one to two billion CFUs.