Having experienced a case of gastroenteritis (tummy bug) recently I thought I had better try to help my gut and immune system by using some probiotics. It got me wondering what some of the thinking is on probiotics, how much and which probiotic strain or probiotic yogurt or product do you have to take to be of benefit? Nutrition is another aspect to health for sure and they say your gut Well here are some of the articles I came across, which, I think cover the basics on what you need to know about probiotics.
Probiotics or Prebiotics
The term “probiotic” was first used by two scientists (Lilly & Stillwell) in 1965 for describing substances secreted by one organism which stimulate the growth of another. Probiotics was derived from the Greek word, meaning “for life”.
However the concept of probiotics is said to have started at the in the begging of the 20th century from a hypothesis proposed by the Nobel Prize winning Russian scientist, Elie Metchnikoff. Metchnikoff suggested that the long and healthy lives of Bulgarian peasants resulted from their high consumption of fermented milk products.
Probiotics are defined as ‘live micro-organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.
This is different from prebiotics.
A prebiotic is a non-digestible food ingredient that provides benefit to a person by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one bacterium or a group of bacteria in the colon,which could improve your health.
Synbiotics are probiotics and prebiotics together. Synbiotics can improve the survival of the bacteria in your gut, This means you could get more of an effect from the prebiotics and probiotics.
What Makes a Probiotic
Here is the criteria for calling a bacteria a probiotic:
- Viability during processing, transport and storage;
- Ability to survive gastric transport;
- Ability to adhere and colonise the GI tract;
- Ability to antagonize pathogenic bacteria; and
- Demonstrated clinical health outcomes
Why Use a Probiotic
Probiotics have been said to help with things ranging from:
- Diarrhoea (travel diarrhoea, infant diarrhoea, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea),
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),
- Necrotizing enterocolitits &,
- Radiation induced diarrhoea.
The authors West et al. looked into using probiotics to help immune function after exercise. They mention the potential for using probiotics in individuals exposed to high degrees of physical and environmental stress. This included professional athletes in rowing, cycling, swimming and triathlon who can be at risk to upper respiratory tract illness (URTI).
But what I found interesting was a comment by Culligan et al. Saying:
In addition, the fact that no new antibiotic classes have been discovered and that pharmaceutical companies have severely reduced investment and in some cases, completely abandoned antimicrobial research and development, reinforces the point that radically new and innovative therapies are urgently needed.
Are Probiotics Safe?
It looks like in general probiotics are fine to take even though they are live micro-organisms. Caution is mentioned with Gupta et al. saying:
the conclusion based on different reports is that the risk of infection with probiotics Lactobacilli or Bifidobacterium is similar to infection with commensal strains, and that consumption of such products presents a negligible risk to consumers including immuno compromised hosts.
So Which Probiotic Product is Best?
Well there are many strains of probiotics and there are more that haven’t been discovered yet. At the moment it looks like you need to take 5 billion colony forming units (CFU) for 5 days of the strain you are using. The strain probiotic can vary for the condition you want to help, but look for the most common two Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.
So if you are in Tesco looking at the probiotic yoghurt fridge full of Yakult, Danone Actimel or even Tesco’s own just look for bacteria starting with Lactobacilli or Bifidobacterium. If you really want further info check out the specific strains used.
Looks like taking probiotics to help my recent stomach bug wasn’t a bad idea.
I personally used the Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic strain range and found out I needed to take it for 5 days to get the best benefit. But now I also know that when I exercise harder or get stressed and feel run down that using a probiotic could help keep opportunistic bugs away. Let me now if you like probiotics and how they make you feel.
- Lilly D, Stillwell R. Probiotics: Growth-Promoting Factors Produced by Microorganisms. Science 1965;12;147:747-8
- West N, Pyne D et al. Probiotics, immunity and exercise: a review. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2009;15:107-26
- Gupta V, Garg R. Probiotics. Indian J Med Microbiol 2009;27:202-9
- Culligan E, Hill C, Sleator R. Probiotics and gastrointestinal disease: successes, problems and future prospects. Gut Pathog. 2009 Nov 23;1(1):19.