Probiotics are live bacteria - also called live microorganisms - that can help balance the intestinal flora, among other things. The collective name for microorganisms that break down sugar to form lactic acid is lactic acid bacteria. In turn, probiotics are the collective name for live bacteria that have shown health benefits in clinical studies. Thus, for lactic acid bacteria to be defined as probiotics, they must be "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, give a beneficial health effect." (Source: the World Health Organization, WHO)
There are different strains of probiotics. One particular strain may show a health benefit in clinical studies, while another strain has been shown to have a different effect.
More than 70% of our immune system is controlled from our stomach and gut - and half of the cells related to the immune system are found in our gut. This means that probiotics can have a positive impact on our immune system, as they can change the composition of bacteria in our gut flora. Our gut flora also plays a key role in enabling humans to absorb essential nutrients, produce vitamins and maintain good gastrointestinal health. They can also contribute to a strengthened natural protective barrier - against less favorable bacteria, viruses, and other components that we are exposed to daily.
Our gut contains a natural array of billions of bacteria, and each person has a unique composition of bacteria in the gut that maintains our well-being. However, if this microbiological flora in the stomach and gut is disturbed, the natural bacteria may need some help.
The composition of our gut flora can be altered by things like a change in diet, illness, the use of different medications such as antibiotics, and by increased stress.
Live and beneficial bacteria are present in some foods - either naturally, as a result of cooking processes or by adding probiotic strains to the food. Many foods contain naturally living bacteria, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. There are also foods that contain good and beneficial bacteria by undergoing a fermentation process. This process involves a lactic acid fermentation that lowers the pH of the food, which in turn leads to the growth of good bacteria while the spoilage bacteria do not thrive. Thus, a fermentation process results in the food containing many strains of live and beneficial bacteria.
Examples of foods that have undergone fermentation are yoghurt, kefir, fermented carrots, miso, and kimchi. However, this does not apply if the products are pasteurized - that is, they have been heat-treated. If the products are cooked at a heat above about 45 degrees, the bacteria die.
Live bacteria are also available as food supplements, including in capsule form, and help people to ingest a larger amount of bacteria at the same time. Probi’s probiotic supplements also contain one or more well-defined bacterial strains with proven health benefits, compared to foods with undefined bacterial strains.
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