What are probiotics?
Probiotics are body-friendly intestinal bacteria, which enter our body with food, are able to colonize and multiply in the intestines where they exert beneficial effects favoring the host’s health. As probiotics are actually bacteria, they have many strains. Such strains are for example bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria, however it is important to note that not every lactic acid bacteria is probiotic.
What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
While the word probiotic designates the bacterium itself, the word prebiotic means the carbohydrate molecules, so called oligosaccharides, which are the exclusive food of probiotics.
What are the advantages of application of probiotics to the body?
The main beneficial trait of probiotics is blocking the multiplication of harmful microorganisms, which trigger a row of other effects in the body, for example the “boosting” of the immune system. However, they may have several other beneficial effects, for example they promote peristalsis as well as absorption of nutrients; in addition there are some strains which produce vitamins etc.
How do I know that I need probiotics?
Probiotics usually enter the body via normal diet; however they are exposed to lots of harmful effects by which their number may significantly drop. Such effects are for example faulty dietary habits such as too much fatty and/or spicy food, alcohol, some diarrhoea conditions for example, food infections. Moreover it is worth mentioning antibiotic treatments, the most powerful decimating effects to probiotics, which does not pick and choose, as besides pathogens it decimates beneficial bacterium flora as well.
I have read in many forums that probiotics affect the whole immune system. How can this be?
Our immune system response to foreign substances usually starts on some external or internal body surface. As with food large amounts of “foreign” substances enter our body, it is not by chance that in the course of evolution intestines have become one of the most important borderline surfaces between our body and foreign substances entering it from the outside. 80% of human immunity can be found in the intestines; therefore its health is crucial. Probiotic bacteria may be able to drive out pathogenic bacteria from the intestines; on the other hand they stimulate phagotizing immune cells responsible for “clearing away” pathogens.
How should I apply probiotics?
We can obtain probiotics via probiotic food, most frequently dairy products, as well as dietary supplements containing probiotics. The application of probiotic food is similar to normal food. Dietary supplements containing probiotics may include in one unit ,tablet or capsule, several strains in concentrate form, in high germ count. So their application is easy, effective and offers a solution for those who for some reason do not consume probiotic foods.
Do probiotics have any side effects?
Up-to-date formulas contain human-friendly probiotic bacteria, which can be applied absolutely safely by anyone, even by children. However, in the case of any gastrointestinal disease please seek medical advice before taking them.
To compile some of the answers, we have used the following special literature:
Probiotiokumok és humánegészség (Probiotics and Human Health) edited by Dr. Sándor Szakály, G-Print Printing House, 2004 Budapest
Élelmezés és táplálkozásegészségtan (Hygiene of Feeding and Diet) edited by Imre Rodler, Medicina Publishing House, 2008 Budapest.