Table of contents:
- What are probiotics for
- How to take probiotics
- Can children take probiotics?
- Difference between prebiotic and probiotic
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the intestine and, in ideal amounts, bring he alth benefits, as they increase the body's defenses, preventing the development of infectious and inflammatory diseases such as diarrhea, ulcers, bronchitis and allergy, for example.
Consumption of probiotics is recommended in situations of intestinal flora imbalance, which usually happens after the use of antibiotics, stress or when you have an unhe althy diet, and it is recommended that the consumption of probiotics be done in conjunction with foods high in fiber and low in fat.
Probiotics can be found in some foods, such as natural yogurt or kefir, or in supplement form, which can be purchased at pharmacies and he alth food stores, and should be consumed according to the doctor's advice or nutritionist.
What are probiotics for
Key benefits of probiotics include:
1. Strengthen the immune system
Probiotics help to modulate the immune response in the intestinal mucosa and throughout the body, as it promotes an increase in the levels of immunoglobulins and lymphocytes, preventing the development of diseases of inflammatory and infectious origin.
In addition, the consumption of probiotics can have a positive effect in some situations that can alter the intestinal balance and lead to a decrease in immunity, such as in the use of infant formula, in the use of antibiotics, in aging, in gastrointestinal diseases and in stress.
2. Prevent and treat infectious diarrhea
Probiotics, especially Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis, can be used to prevent and treat some types of acute and infectious diarrhea caused by viruses or bacteria, such as rotavirus or Salmonella sp., for example. It is important to note that prebiotic therapy for acute diarrhea should be combined with oral rehydration s alts according to medical indications.
In some cases, diarrhea can also be a consequence of treatment with antibiotics, since these drugs can promote changes in the intestinal flora and favor the increase of pathogenic bacteria. Thus, the use of probiotics can also be effective in the treatment and prevention of this type of diarrhea.
3. Fight digestive diseases
Probiotics are able to act against the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, a microorganism that is related to gastritis, peptic ulcer and stomach cancer. Therefore, the consumption of probiotics can be recommended in the treatment and prevention of these diseases, alleviating the symptoms and preventing the development of the disease.
4. Prevent colon cancer
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria can modify the intestinal flora, promoting a decrease in the levels of carcinogenic substances and, thus, preventing the development of colon cancer.
For the anticancer effect of probiotics to be more effective, it is necessary to include prebiotic foods in daily life, which serve as "food" for the beneficial bacteria present in the intestine, such as oats, rye, barley, chicory root, honey, garlic and banana, for example.
5. Relieve Constipation
Different types of probiotic microorganisms can act on the intestinal microbiota reducing constipation in children and adults, such as L. reuteri, L. casei rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, L. casei Shirota, among others, which act by stimulating bowel movements, improving stool consistency and reducing abdominal pain, in addition to preventing the occurrence of diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
6. Preventing and treating allergies
The development of probiotic microorganisms in the intestinal flora could prevent and help treat some types of allergies, such as atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergy to dust mites, for example, as they help to reduce the inflammatory response produced in the body.However, the effect of probiotics against allergy may depend on the type of microorganism that is consumed and the combination with various prebiotics found in foods.
Furthermore, the consumption of prebiotics in pregnant women and during the breastfeeding period has an important effect, as it helps to prevent the occurrence of different allergic diseases in the baby, such as allergy to cow's milk, eczema and atopic dermatitis, and should always be consumed under the guidance of a gynecologist or obstetrician.
7. Treating intestinal diseases
The use of probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, can be beneficial for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, as they help reduce symptoms and control intestinal inflammation, favoring treatment.
8. Protect cardiovascular he alth
Daily consumption of products with probiotics can bring benefits to heart he alth, as it helps to decrease the absorption of fat from food, reduce LDL cholesterol levels, also known as "bad cholesterol", and increase HDL levels, also known as "good cholesterol", preventing the development of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.
9. Prevent urogenital tract infections
Vaginal or oral administration of probiotics can promote the reestablishment of the vaginal flora and reduce the risk of developing diseases of the urinary system, such as urinary infections caused by the bacteria Escherichia coli, for example.
In addition, probiotics may also protect against the development of bacterial or yeast-induced vaginitis, antibiotic use, or hormonal changes in a woman.
10. Protect against respiratory infections
Probiotics increase the activity of alveolar macrophages that act on the infectious agents present in the respiratory tract, being useful in the prevention of some respiratory diseases, such as sinusitis, otitis, bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in children and in people who have the compromised immune system.
11. Improve lactose intolerance
When probiotic microorganisms are in the intestine, they release the enzyme beta-galactosidase, which acts on the digestion of lactose. In this way, it prevents people intolerant to this carbohydrate from developing symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhea when they consume milk.
12. Improve mental he alth
Some studies indicate that daily consumption of yogurt and probiotic supplements that contain bifidobacteria and lactobacilli can improve mood, anxiety, depression, memory capacity, and some disorders such as autism and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
How to take probiotics
There are two main ways to ingest probiotics: the first is through increasing the consumption of foods with natural probiotics, such as yogurt or kefir, for example, and the other is through the use of supplements with probiotics.
1. Probiotic foods
Some foods are rich in natural probiotics. Some examples of these foods include:
- Natural yogurt: is the main and easiest source of probiotics on the market, but there are also flavored versions of yogurt that keep the beneficial bacteria alive;
- Kefir: is a product fermented with yeast and bacteria that is similar to yogurt, but has a higher content of probiotics. See more about kefir;
- Fermented milk: are speci alty products that usually contain Lactobacillus added by the industry, the most famous being Yakult;
- Kombucha: a fermented beverage made primarily from black tea;
- Oriental products based on soy, vegetables, such as Miso, Natto, Kimchi and Tempeh, which can be purchased in specialized stores;
- Sauerkraut: is made by fermenting fresh cabbage or cabbage leaves;
- Picles: To make this food, cucumbers are placed in s alted water and allowed to ferment for a while;
- Natural yeast: is a culture composed of yeasts and bacteria that are naturally found in the environment, and that can be used in the preparation of various products, such as breads, pies and cakes.
In addition to these foods, some cheeses may also have live cultures of microorganisms with probiotic properties, and it is important to read the nutritional label to confirm the presence of bacteria.
To keep the flora he althy, it is advisable to consume at least 1 food source of probiotics per day, especially during and after the use of antibiotics, which end up destroying the he althy intestinal flora as well.
Learn more about probiotic foods in the following video:
2. Probiotic supplements
In addition to food, probiotics can also be consumed in the form of supplements in capsules, liquids or sachets, which must be diluted in water or natural juices to be consumed.Some examples are PB8, Simfort, Simcaps, Kefir Real and Floratil, and they can be found in pharmacies and nutritional products stores.
There are several types of supplements, which include between 1 and 10 different types of probiotics. The most important are usually:
- Bifidobacteria animalis: helps strengthen the immune system, as well as aiding digestion and fighting bacteria transmitted by contaminated food;
- Bifidobacteria bifidum: they are present in the small and large intestine, helping in the digestion of dairy products;
- Bifidobacteria breve: are present in the intestine and vaginal tract and help fight bacterial and fungal infections;
- Bifidobacteria longum: it is one of the most common types of probiotics in the intestine and helps to eliminate toxins from the body;
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: It is perhaps the most important type that helps in the absorption of various nutrients, as well as fighting infections and facilitating digestion. L. acidophilus are also present in the vagina, helping to fight infections;
- Lactobacillus reuteri: they are present especially in the mouth, stomach and small intestine, being important against H. pylori infection;
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus: they are present in the intestine and can help to quickly fight diarrhea cases, especially when traveling to other countries. It can also help treat acne, eczema and Candida sp. infection;
- Lactobacillus fermentum: help neutralize products and toxins released during digestion, improving the environment for the growth of intestinal flora;
- Saccharomyces boulardii: Helps treat diarrhea caused by antibiotics or traveler's diarrhea.
The greater the diversity of probiotics, as well as the number of bacteria inside each pill, the better the supplement will be, as it will facilitate the faster development of he althy intestinal flora.
How to consume: it is recommended that the supplement has between 2 and 10 billion active bacteria, it is important to read the nutritional label of the product, which must indicate the amount of microorganism per dose and which bacterium, because it is important to choose the one that is best according to the situation to be treated.
It is recommended to use the supplement for 4 weeks and if there is no improvement during this period, the ideal is to try another supplement. Probiotics should be taken before or just after a meal, so that the food helps the bacteria survive the stomach acid and reach the intestines, where they can multiply more easily.
It is important to remember that the consumption of probiotics in the form of supplements or foods rich in these bacteria, it is also important to maintain a he althy diet rich in fiber, as fiber is the main food for probiotics, favoring their survival in the intestine.
Can children take probiotics?
According to several scientific studies, probiotics can bring several benefits to children, especially in the case of diarrhea, intense intestinal cramps or more specific conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, for example.
However, there is still no evidence to support the daily use of probiotics in children, especially since the possible long-term side effects are not known. Thus, it is recommended that the child takes the probiotic only during a specific situation and with the guidance of a pediatrician, who should indicate the most appropriate type of probiotic, as well as the dose.
Still, it is possible to include probiotics naturally in the child's diet without causing side effects, through the ingestion of yogurt with active bifids, for example.
Difference between prebiotic and probiotic
While probiotics are he althy bacteria that populate the intestine, prebiotics are fibers that serve as food for probiotics and favor their survival and proliferation in the intestine.
Some examples of natural prebiotics are oats, onions, garlic, green bananas and green banana biomass, for example.