Probiotic bacteria are often called friendly, good or healthy bacteria. Probiotics are products containing live microorganisms, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health effect (definition by the World Health Organization). They help prevent or treat various diseases, and can be consumed through food, special beverages or dietary supplements.
Categories of probiotics in use today are lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus), bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium) and some strains of Escherichia coli bacteria, as well as yeast Saccharomyces boulardi. These bacteria are known to survive the acidic environment of the stomach and the aggressive effects of bile to reach the small and large intestine where they exert their effects and form colonies.
Probiotics gained their name in the 1960s from Greek and Latin meaning for life (pros bios). However, the notion of probiotics had been around for at least half a century before that.
The “inventor” of probiotics is Russian scientist Ilya Metchnikoff. From the Caucasus Mountains he brought the world the news that probiotics are the key to longevity.
He was inspired by the longevity of the Caucasians and their high consumption of fermented dairy. “The dependence of the intestinal microbes on the food makes it possible to adopt measures to modify the flora in our bodies and to replace the harmful microbes with useful microbes.” He also proposed that “the acid-producing organisms in fermented dairy products could prevent “fouling” in the large intestine and thus lead to a prolongation of the life of the consumer” 4(Metchnikoff 1908).
At that same time Henry Tissier, a French pediatrician, observed that children with diarrhea had in their stools a low number of bacteria characterized by a peculiar, Y-shaped morphology. These “bifid” bacteria were, on the contrary, abundant in healthy children. He suggested that these bacteria could be administered to patients with diarrhea to restore a healthy gut flora.
A high-quality probiotic product is an effective means to restore a healthy gastrointestinal flora, especially after taking antibiotics or when consuming a diet high in processed food. Supplemented probiotics can alter the intestinal microflora and affect the behavior of the microorganisms residing there. Probiotic content in stool shows that the effects of probiotics in the body last 1-4 weeks. If a sustained benefit from a probiotic is desired, continued consumption is required.
- improve digestion;
- alleviate side-effects of antibiotic therapy;
- reduce risk of contracting the most common acute infections, including rotavirus, or alleviates symptoms thereof;
- effective treatment for all types of diarrhea;
- reduce symptoms of lactose malabsorption;
- alleviate symptoms of intestinal disorders (irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis);
- normalize the passing of stool in subjects suffering from obstipation;
- beneficial in case of disrupted gastrointestinal function (obstipation);
- urinary tract infections;
- bacterial vaginosis;
- chronic fatigue, anxiety, psychiatric disorders;
- food allergies, eczema, atopic dermatitis, hay fever (allergic rhinitis).