We once believed that gastrointestinal tract is just about digesting food and absorbing nutrients. However, since the early of the 20th century, there were several studies that have relieved that there are billions of microorganisms that coexist with human, the probiotics.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are small microorganisms, primarily bacteria, and fungi, which normally exist in the gastrointestinal tract. According to the official definition, probiotics are “living microorganisms which, when administered in sufficient quantities, provide a benefit to the health of the host”. The most common bacteria belong to the family of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and there are also yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii.
Probiotics, prebiotics, and symbiotics
The term prebiotics should not be confused with probiotics. Prebiotics are substances such as fiber, inulin, and fructooligosaccharides, which help in the growth of probiotic micro-organisms. Probiotics are often combined with prebiotics for better absorption and action. The term “symbiotic” refers to foods and nutritional supplement containing both probiotics and prebiotics.
The actions of probiotics and their positive effects on intestinal (diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel disease) and health in general has been studied in depth. Gut bacteria participate in food digestion, absorption of nutrients, while many bacterias produce even vitamins, such as vitamin K and vitamins of B complex (B6, B12).
In addition, many studies have highlighted the role of probiotics in energy metabolism, while also in the metabolism of certain carbohydrates, metals and trace elements (calcium, magnesium, iron). In addition, the involvement of probiotics in the immune system is very important as they boost the body’s immunization, fight pathogenic microorganisms and seem to play an important role in the prevention and treatment of many symptoms and health conditions. Other benefits of probiotics include the protection of the flora of the oral cavity, vagina (vaginitis), urinary tract (urinary tract infections) and skin (eczema).
Types of probiotics
Probiotic species are many and their strains vary. Lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus (e.g., L. plantarum, L. paracasei, L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. crispatus, L. gasseri, L. reuteri, L. bulgaricus), streptococcus (e.g., S. sanguis, S. oralis, S. mitis, S. thermophilus, S. salivarius), Bifidobacterium (e.g., B. longum, B. breve, B. animalis, B. bifidum) , Saccharomyces yeasts (S. boulardii) Enterococcus (E. faecium), Bacillus bacilli (e.g., B. coagulans, B. subtilis, B. laterosporus), propionic bacteria Propionibacterium (e.g. jensenii, P. freudenreichii), and Lactococcus (e.g., L. lactis, L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. curvatus, L. plantarum).
As there are many probiotic formulations in the market, in the table below you can find which bacteria have been studied and shown benefits according to the symptom/health condition you are experiencing.
|Constipation||B. (animalis) lactis, L. reuteri, L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, L. plantarum, B. longum, B. infantis, B. breve, S. thermophilus, L.casei Shirota|
|Diarrhea||Saccharomyces boulardii, L. acidophilus, L. acidophilus, B. animalis subsp. lactis, B. bifidum, L. reuteri|
|Traveler’s diarrhea||Saccharomyces boulardii|
|Irritable bowel syndrome/Colitis||L. acidophilus, L. paracasei, L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, L. plantarum, B. longum, B. infantis, B. breve, S. thermophilus, Echerichia coli Nissle, Saccharomyces boulardii, B. (animalis) lactis, Bacillus subtilis, B. bifidum, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, L. helveticus, L. lactis ssp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus|
|Bacterial vaginosis||L. crispatus, L. jensenii, L. gasseri, L. rhamnosus, L. reuteri|
|Urinary tract infections||B. (animalis) lactis, L. acidophilus|
|Peptic ulcer (H. pylori)||L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, Saccharomyces boulardii|
|Oral health||Streptococcus salivarius K12, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L. acidophilus, L. salivarius, L. paracasei|
|LDL and total cholesterol||L. reuteri|
|Stess and mood||B. longum, L. helveticus, L.casei Shirota|
|Weight management||B. (animalis) lactis|
Packaging and storage
Formulations which ensure that probiotics inside the capsule remain unchanged when they pass through the stomach (acid-resistant) and reach intact the intestine, where their action begins are prefered.
In addition, the way probiotics are maintained is very important. Many products require refrigeration, but there are also self-stable formulas available. Despite that probiotics should not be exposed to humidity, heat and light. Choose a shady place away from heat sources.
How to administer probiotics
Probiotics, as living micro-organisms, are very sensitive. As the majority of them are destroyed at high temperatures, it is advisable to avoid taking them with hot drinks/beverages. It would also be good to consume them after a meal, in order to minimize the effects of stomach acids on probiotics.
In Vita4you you can find a wide variety of nutritional supplements with probiotics.