Probiotics: Benefits and Important Features

Sunday 16 October 2011

Do you know there are 400 to 500 types of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract? They all compete for the limited space and food inside our digestive system.

When there are more "good guys" than "bad guys", then all is balanced, everybody lives in harmony and we are well. But if we're sick, stressed out, eat lots of unhealthy food or take antibiotics, the balance of our GI flora will be affected. That's where good probiotics come in.

What are the Benefits of Probiotics?

Probiotics are friendly, good bacteria residing in our GI tract. They contribute many benefits, including:

1) Strengthen the immune functions in our GI system by regulating the ecological harmony of the different colonies of bacteria.
2) Put in place an environment which is conducive for the growth of beneficial bacteria. This sort of environment is acidic in nature, which discourages the growth of harmful bacteria.
3) Boost up our immune system thereby reducing the risk of colorectal cancer (as there are less bad bacteria in our system). They also improve the conditions of vaginal infections and urinary tract infections.
4) Reduce the symptoms of eczema and other allergic reactions (asthma, sinus etc).
5) Convert lactose into lactic acid which become food for the good bacteria. Hence, lactose intolerant people can now have increased tolerance on dairy products and reduce the incidences of diarrhea.
6) Prevent and improve constipation problem as it stimulates the peristalsis movement in our intestines.
7) Promote synthesis of vitamins and production of enzymes, thereby aiding in digestion.
8) Reduce cholesterol level.

Many people use probiotics to prevent diarrhea, gas and cramping caused by antibiotics. Antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria. A decrease in beneficial bacteria may lead to digestive problems. Taking probiotics helps replace the lost beneficial bacteria, therefore plays a role to prevent diarrhea.

Types of Probiotics in the Market

There are many types of probiotics products in the market, giving varying levels of effectiveness. Generally, a good probiotic should be able to safely pass through 2 main hurdles to reach our intestines so it can do its job:

a) our body heat of 37 degrees celsius. If it can't, it will be destroyed the moment we put it into our mouth.
b) the very acidic gastric juice in our stomach which has a pH level of 1 or 2 and the bile juice.

The secret is in "coating" the probiotics with the appropriate "protective shield" to keep them safe. Probiotics that do not undergo any coating process with be intolerant to heat and acid and have a short shelf life (as they do not have any food to eat). They are normally kept in the fridge to stay alive.

Probiotics which are coated in capsule form are harder to dissolve and also have a short shelf life. They may be less effective as the bacteria are trapped inside the capsule and unable to do their job.

Microcapsule probiotics generally use gel to coat. They do last longer but takes as long as 6 hours to dissolve and are not so stable.

Probiotics coated using the multi-coated technique is the best. They are coated with food supply for these probiotics so they can successfully go to our GI tract and also have a longer lifespan as they have food to eat. As they can adhere to our colon, they have time to multiply and stay in our GI tract for longer period. They are more stable and are not affected by our body heat. Further, they have been trained to increase their tolerance against gastric acid and bile salt.

Please refer to this article if you want to discover why Lactoberry probiotics fits the bill.

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