What are Probiotics?
Probiotic derives from the Greek words, pro and biota, literally meaning “for life. Probiotics are essentially beneficial bacteria that deliver positive health effects.
As defined by FAO, probiotics are living microorganisms which when administered in adequate amount, confer a health benefit on the host. This definition is widely accepted by scientific circles. Read more in the following reports:
A healthy human gastrointestinal tract contains approximately 100 trillion living microorganisms from up to 500 different species of bacteria. In a normal healthy gut these are predominately friendly, or beneficial bacteria. However, the effects of illness, stress, medication such as antibiotics, fatigue, age, food and diet, can create an imbalance of microflora in the gut. Any intrusion of pathogenic microorganisms (bad bacteria) can affect one’s overall health and lead to disorders and disease.
Probiotics are an important factor in obtaining a good microflora in the gastrointestinal tract, reducing any imbalance which could lead to infection.
Probiotic microoganisms are most commonly from the Lactobacillus
genera, although probiotics can also include other bacterial genera (Enterococcus
, yeasts, propionic bacteria).
Probiotics are available in various food products, dietary supplements sold as capsules or tablets, pharmaceutical applications and in animal feed.
Traditional yoghurt is the first probiotic dairy product. It has long been recognised that live microorganisms exert positive health benefits on the human body. Yoghurt is the basis of all probiotic fermented milks available on the market today.
Additional information on probiotic bacteria
are large genus of bacteria that are generally benign and beneficial, belonging to the larger classification of lactic acid bacteria, considered to be probiotic.
They are rod shaped and can form chains when they colonise. As their name suggests, these bacteria are particularly fond of milk, feeding off its sugars (lactose) and creating lactic acid as a by-product. This fermentation process is used to produce a variety of cultured foods and drinks such as cheese, sour cream, sauerkraut and beer.
In addition, Lactobacillus
bacteria are also beneficial to their host. They are happy dwellers in the walls of the intestine and help in digestion by breaking down food compounds. Lactobacilli
are also effective in keeping out bad bacteria, by creating an acidic environment where they cannot survive.
With their numerous beneficial effects, such as maintaining a positive balance of intestinal microflora, these bacteria are considered to be probiotic microorganisms and are used in many probiotic products, either as an addition to food, such as yoghurts, or in the form of supplements.
is a genus of several different species, each conferring specific health effects. The most studied probiotic strain is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
. Other species include L. acidophilus
, L. johnsonii
and L. casei
Commonly used strains:
L. acidophilus, L. casei/paracasei, L. gasseri, L. johnsoni, L. plantarum, L. brevis, L. delbruelkii subsp. bulgaricus, L. fermentum, L. helveticus, L. reuteri, L. cellobiosus, L. curvatu
Scientific studies show that Lactobacill
- Aid in digestion of lactose and dairy products
- Help to maintain intestinal tract and protect against certain molecules from entering bloodstream and causing allergic response
- Prevent some pathogenic microbes such as E. coli, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Candida species from multiplying
- Acidify of the intestinal tract; low pH provides a hostile environment for pathogens and yeast, helping to prevent vaginal and urinary tract infections
- Contribute to the prevention and treatment of diarrhea
Bifidobacteria is a genera of friendly bacteria that exists naturally in the human body. It is amongst the first type of bacteria to colonise newborn breast-fed babies and is predominant in children, when their immune system is not fully developed. The Bifidobacterium are anaerobic, branched, rod-shaped microorganisms. They ferment sugars in the gastro intestinal tract to produce lactic acid and help release energy and nutrients from food. Traditionally used as probiotic agents, bifidobacterium are commonly found in yoghurts and other functional foods.
Commonly used probiotic strains:
B. bifidum, B. lactis, B. longum, B. infantus, B. breve, B. adolescentis, B. animalis, B. thermophilum
- Protects intestinal lining and prevents the colonisation of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts
- Helps to maintain the PH balance in intestine through the production of acid, which obstructs disease producing microbes from gaining ground
- Helps to regulate bowel movements
- Prevent the absorption of toxins produced by bad bacteria; this reduces the toxic load on the liver
- Manufactures B-complex vitamins
- May help prevent diarrhea
Examples of commercialised probiotics used in fermented milks
||L. casei Shirota
||L. casei DN-114 001
||DanActive / Actimel
||B. animalis ssp.lactis DN-173 010
||L. casei CRL 431
||L . acidophilus LA-5
||L. acidophilus NCFM
||B. animalis ssp lactis HN019
||B. animalis ssp lactis BB-12