Definition: Defining the Meaning of Probiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. The term probiotic is currently used to name ingested microorganisms associated with beneficial effects to humans and other animals. Studies on the medical benefits of probiotics have yet to reveal a cause-effect relationship, and their medical effectiveness has yet to be conclusively proven for most of the studies conducted thus far.
The World Health Organization's 2001 definition of probiotics is "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host".
You don't necessarily need probiotics, foods or supplements that contain "good" bacteria, to be healthy. However, these microorganisms may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing "good" bacteria in your body already do.
At the start of the 20th century, probiotics were thought to beneficially affect the host by improving its intestinal microbial balance, thus inhibiting pathogens and toxin producing bacteria. Today, specific health effects are being investigated and documented including alleviation of chronic intestinal inflammatory diseases, prevention and treatment of pathogen-induced diarrhea, urogenital infections, and atopic diseases.
Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be healthy for the host organism.
According to the currently adopted definition by FAO/WHO, probiotics are: "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria are the most common types of microbes used as probiotics; but certain yeasts and bacilli may also be helpful. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures; such as in yogurt, soy yogurt, or as dietary supplements.
Experiments into the benefits of probiotic therapies suggest a range of potentially beneficial medicinal uses for probiotics. For many of the potential benefits, research is limited and only preliminary results are available. It should be noted that the effects described are not general effects of probiotics. Recent research on the molecular biology and genomics of Lactobacillus has focused on the interaction with the immune system, anti-cancer potential, and potential as a biotherapeutic agent in cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, travelers' diarrhea, pediatric diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Research is emerging on the potential health benefits of multiple probiotic strains as a health supplement as opposed to a single strain. The human gut is home to some 400-500 types of microbes. It is thought that this diverse environment may benefit from multiple probiotic strains; different strains populate different areas of the digestive tract, and studies are beginning to link different probiotic strains to specific health benefits.
Probiotics Added to Fruit Juice:
Probiotics are often added to products in order provide additional nutritional benefits to the consumer, thus making them "functional foods."
A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that fruit juices could potentially be good carriers for two different kinds of probiotics.
The study found that certain strains of probiotics are stable in a fruit juice, namely a mix of red-fruits, and doesn't affect the sensory score.
Currently most probiotic foods are dairy-based, but there is a growing interest toward nondairy probiotic products because of lactose intolerance and cholesterol content. Fruit juices are appealing due to their high content in beneficial nutrients like minerals, vitamins, dietary fibers, and antioxidants, and with additional research could become a good source of probiotics as well.
Quick Facts: Interesting Probiotic
- There is no good evidence taking probiotics helps maintain remission from ulcerative colitis.
- Some probiotics have been shown in preliminary research to possibly treat various forms of gastroenteritis.
- A 2013 meta-analysis of 25 trials found that probiotic supplementation in pregnancy and early life might help with atopic sensitivity in infants but probably not with asthma or wheezing.
- There is some evidence probiotics may help people with irritable bowel syndrome, although uncertainty remains around which type of probiotic works best.
- Some of the best evidence in support of probiotic health benefits is in the treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
- In some situations, such as where the person consuming probiotics is critically ill, probiotics could be harmful.
- Ingestion of certain active strains may help lactose-intolerant individuals tolerate more lactose than they would otherwise have tolerated.
- A 2010 study suggested that probiotics, by introducing "good" bacteria into the gut, may help maintain immune system activity, which in turn helps the body react more quickly to new infections.
- A Cochrane Collaboration systematic review of the use of probiotics to treat acute infectious diarrhea found encouraging results.
- Preliminary human and animal studies have demonstrated the efficacy of some strains of lactic acid bacteria for reducing serum cholesterol levels.
- Some studies have indicated that consumption of milk fermented with various strains of LAB may result in modest reductions in blood pressure.
More research is needed but there is encouraging evidence probiotics may also help: