What are Probiotics?
The word “probiotic” is a compound of two Greek words: ‘pro’ to signify promotion of and ‘biotic’ which means life. Their very definition is something that affirms life and health, even by today’s modern standards; the World Health Organization defines a probiotic as ‘any living microorganism that has a health benefit when ingested’.
We usually think of bacteria as something that causes diseases. But our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are shown to be good for your health, especially your digestive and immune systems. Probiotics are often called ‘good’ or ‘helpful’ bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy by restoring balance. However, it’s not an easy task as the bacteria must first survive the acid in the stomach and the bile in the small intestines to be successful.
As Hippocrates says, “All disease begins in the gut”.
Many factors can impact the balance of bacteria within our guts including; genetics, environment, hygiene, stress, infection, diet, and medications such as antibiotics. Antibiotics can kill our healthy intestinal flora when it is working on getting rid of destructive, illness-causing bacteria. As a result, doctors commonly prescribe taking probiotics to “repopulate” the digestive tract with healthful bacteria during or after a course of antibiotics.
Did you know that 60-80 percent of your entire immune system is in your digestive tract! Without a healthy balance of good bacteria within your gut, your immune system cannot function in a healthy fashion. Your body uses a lot of resources trying to ensure your gut health is in tip-top shape, research has shown that you may be more susceptible to allergies, intolerances, and virus if you have an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.
Types of Probiotics
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are probably the two most common strains of probiotic bacteria called lactic acid bacteria. These two strains are generally found in yoghurt and of course, fermented foods.
Research has shown that these two strains of probiotics may assist in alleviating common conditions such as; irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhoea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites) and antibiotic-related diarrhoea. As well as decreasing intestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating.
What does Bio-Fermented mean?
When something is fermented it means that the sugars and carbohydrates have been broken down by beneficial (or ‘good’) bacteria, resulting in the formation of lactic acid, which our taste buds recognize as a complex, pungent burst of flavour. The subword ‘bio’ is in reference to the bioavailability of the fermented food, this usually means that it is in liquid form, as your body can absorb the nutrients and good bacteria faster from a liquid.
What is the difference between PRE-biotics and PRO-biotics?
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy by controlling the growth of harmful bacteria.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the human body. They are food for probiotics.
Probiotic for Babies
You probably know that what you feed your baby is important. From breastfeeding to starting solids, to getting them to eat vegetables, you’re making sure they are healthy from day one. But in some cases, we may need to do more. Probiotics for infants, whether in food or supplement form, just might be one of the best things you can give the baby to support its health.
It was once thought that amniotic fluid was sterile, but we now know that it’s not, and it’s your baby’s first introduction to bacterial colonization. The kind of bacteria in the amniotic fluid depends on the kind of bacteria in mum’s gut flora. During a vaginal birth, the baby is further colonized by bacteria in mum’s birth canal (during a caesarean birth baby is often colonized by mom’s skin).
Without the proper balance of gut bacteria, babies may have colic, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhoea, or develop more serious digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease. A probiotic specifically designed for infants should help the balance within their sensitive guts helping to support healthy digestive function, promoting normal bowel movements, and assisting their immune system.
Probiotics for Pets
In animals, bacteria are found just about everywhere: on all exposed external and internal surfaces of the body – the ears, nose, the eyes, skin, mouth, throat, and airways – as well as in the intestines, cecum, and colon.
It has been found that animals with gastrointestinal issues can greatly benefit from a good probiotic supplement. Probiotics gently help animals get over digestive disturbances by bringing the bacteria in the digestive tract into balance – without the use of harsh medicines. Probiotic supplementation can even improve the overall wellbeing of healthy animals and support a healthy immune system. Probiotics can also improve the health of animals on a processed kibble diet or irradiated and pasteurized raw foods. They can also benefit animals who exhibit stress or who have sensitive digestive systems.
Please note: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary from individual to individual.