Probiotics - how healthy are probiotic foods?

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Microorganisms that protect the intestine, strengthen the immune system and protect against cancer - for several years it is known that these health-promoting germs actually exist: in our gut. They can also be supplied through the diet, especially in yoghurt they are frolicking. But does advertising keep what it promises?

Probiotics for the intestinal flora

The gut is the largest immune system in the human body - anyone who claimed that decades ago was mildly ridiculed at best. But now this knowledge is established in medicine.

Numerous studies have shown that diseases in which our immune system is involved or goes mad can often find their way into the intestine or, conversely, can improve the condition by supporting the bacterial flora.

What are probiotics?

At this point probiotics begin: These microorganisms are a natural part of our healthy intestinal flora. In addition, in the form of food or dietary supplements, they can enter the intestine, settle there and support the existing intestinal flora - and in this way stimulate, train and strengthen our immune system.

When lactobacilli and bifidobacteria work

Proved to be particularly helpful lactobacilli (Lactic acid bacteria) and bifidobacteria - their preventative and healing effects have been proven, but with limitations:

  • Not all bacterial strains have corresponding effects; the effects demonstrated in the studies apply only to the tested probiotic (which does not mean that they are not present in others).
  • When fed through food, only a small portion of the beneficial microorganisms reach the intestine - the others are destroyed by gastric and bile acids.
  • In the case of foodstuffs, there is also the danger that improper storage or transportation routes mean that there is no longer sufficient amount of bacteria - a disadvantage that dietary supplements from the pharmacy (for example in the form of capsules) do not have.

In which foods are probiotics included?

Probiotics are in lactic fermented foods - and not only since there are yoghurt drinks in small bottles. The healthy bacteria are also found in:

  • junket
  • kefir
  • yogurt
  • Brottrunk
  • Cheddar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • sauerkraut
  • Beetroot
  • Pickles

Since time immemorial, these bacteria have been helping to conserve food, because the strong production of acid means that other harmful organisms have no chance anymore.

Best to consume dairy products daily

It is crucial that probiotic products are consumed frequently, ie daily, and regularly. Otherwise, the bacteria can not colonize the intestinal mucosa.

Traditional, non-heat-treated yoghurts and dairy products containing live lactobacilli or bifidobacterial strains should be beneficial to health. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) therefore recommends daily consumption of low-fat soured milk products.

Effects of probiotics

Under the keyword "probiotic", which translates as "for life", the grocery retailers' shelves are now full of different products, often more expensive than traditional products.

Not every consumer immediately understands the importance of Lactobacillus casei Actimel or Lactobacillus casei Golding and Gorbach (LGG). These lactic acid bacteria, which by the way are not genetically modified, have proven to be quite resistant to gastric and bile acid.

There are now numerous studies on the effects of probiotics1-10:

  • In fact, certain probiotics such as dry yeast (Saccharomyces boulardii) and the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (for example, LGG or Lactobacillus acidophilus) can alleviate the duration and severity of gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea. They can even be used as a preventive measure against travelers' diarrhea (start taking them five days before the journey begins).
  • Other bacteria promote digestion and reduce the number of putrefactive bacteria in the colon. In lactose intolerance they improve the digestion of lactose.
  • In infants, the consumption of lactic acid bacteria with probiotic properties protects against certain intestinal infections and helps normalize bacterial overgrowth after antibiotic therapy.
  • Lactic acid bacteria taken by the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding (eg LGG®, Symbiolact comp.®) prevent allergic reactions and especially eczema in the child.
  • Probiotics can reduce the loss of bone mass in the elderly.
  • Probiotics appear to positively affect the course of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease) and urinary tract infections.
  • Probiotics may lower the risk of colorectal cancer by inhibiting cytotoxic enzymes. A Japanese study has shown this effect for the germ Lactobacillus casei Shirota.

Probiotics: Researchers argue over health effects

While some scientists suggest a positive effect of probiotics, others doubt them and also consider possible negative effects. This is what a study shows11 suggest that probiotics may not always promote and perhaps even harm the regeneration of the intestinal flora after antibiotic treatment.

Furthermore, it is suspected that probiotics are not well tolerated by all people equally well12, Probiotics are also suspected of causing discomfort such as bloating and stomach aches.

Another potential disadvantage of probiotics is that they can worsen some diseases - possibly affecting some autoimmune diseases, such as Bechterew's disease, or pancreatitis.

Such negative effects of probiotics are still under investigation.

Sources and studies

  1. Htwe, K. et al. (2008): Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii in the treatment of acute watery diarrhea in Myanmar children: a randomized controlled study.
  2. Hickson, M. et al. (2007): Use of probiotic Lactobacillus preparation to prevent diarrhea associated with antibiotics: randomized double blind placebo controlled trial.
  3. Szajewska, H. et al. (2007): Meta-analysis: Saccharomyces boulardii for treating acute diarrhea in children.
  4. Szajewska, H. et al. (2007): Meta-analysis: Lactobacillus GG for treating acute diarrhea in children.
  5. D'Souza, A.L. et al. (2002): Probiotics in prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: meta-analysis.
  6. Blümer, N. et al. (2005): Perinatal maternal supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) reduces allergic inflammatory response in the offspring.
  7. Rautava, S. et al. (2002): Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant.
  8. Passeron, T. et al. (2006): Prebiotics and synbiotics: two promising approaches for the treatment of atopic dermatitis in children above two years.
  9. Lee, S.J. et al. (2007): Probiotics prophylaxis in children with persistent primary vesicoureteral reflux.
  10. Nilsson, A.G. et al. (2018): Lactobacillus reuteri reduces bone loss in older women with low bone mineral density - a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, clinical trial.
  11. Suez, J. et al. (2018): Post-antibiotic good mucosal microbiome reconstitution is impaired by probiotics and improved by autologous FMT.
  12. Zmora, N. et al. (2018): Personalized Good Mucosal Colonization Resistance to Empiric Probiotics Associated with Unique Host and Microbiome Features.

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