Pro-bios, i.e. "in favor of life", this should already make us understand what i probiotics. In fact, they are live microorganisms, mostly bacteria and yeasts very similar to microbes, naturally present in our body, and in particular in the gastrointestinal tract. When these microorganisms have positive functions on the body, we call them "good" microbes or microorganisms, to distinguish them from those that, instead, cause us inflammation.
But… is that all? Obviously not. In this article we will learn more about probiotics, what they are for and we will dedicate particular attention to their use for the contrast of some pathologies and for the well-being of some parts of our body.
Probiotics: what they are
In the intestine there are billions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses that make up the so-called intestinal microbiota. The microbiota, together with the diet, offers probiotics a nutrient-rich acquis. In return, probiotics keep the intestine and the whole body in balance, also working on the immune system.
Attention: the microbiota is not to be confused with a very similar term, the 'microbiome', which indicates the DNA of bacteria. Everyone has a different one, and the combination of the various genetic sequences gives rise to different proteins, as well as performing numerous other functions such as the fermentation of non-digestible substrates, or the metabolism of fats, or even the production of vitamins.
Natural probiotics: which are the most common
The bacterial species most present in the microbiota are i Lactobacilli, The Streptococci hey Bifidobacteria, while among the mushrooms we find mostly Saccharomyces, Aspergillus And Penicillium. However, each of us has a 'personalised' microbiota which is influenced by numerous factors, with particular reference to diet.
When this composition is not in balance, we are faced with a problem of intestinal dysbiosis.
How to find out if you are suffering from it? Think about one of these symptoms:
- abdominal swelling
- difficulty in digestion
- hive disorders.
If you have at least one, it is possible that your microbiota has lost its natural balance.
Better probiotics and prebiotics
Another similar name that requires attention so as not to get confused. Next to probiotics we also find prebiotics, non-digestible substances of animal origin. Their function is to select one or more bacteria present in the intestinal flora (microbiota), allowing them to grow.
Simply put, prebiotics select the better probiotics. As? Based on the main characteristics that a probiota must have:
- being able to survive the acidic environment of the stomach and arrive alive and vital in the intestine, where it performs its actual function;
- adhere to the intestinal mucosa and colonize it (reproduce);
- it must be a "normal" constituent of the intestinal flora healthy and free from side effects.
Probiotics for irritable bowel and much more: the main functions of probiotics
We have already anticipated it above: there are truly numerous functions that probiotics perform for the well-being of our body.
1) Reduction of irritable bowel symptoms
Irritable bowel syndrome is closely related to the greater presence, in the microbiota, of methane-producing bacteria, which favor meteorism and damage the intestinal tract. This higher concentration corresponds to a lower presence of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and more generally of microbes with an anti-inflammatory action and maintenance of the integrity of the lining tissue of the intestine. Introducing probiotic supplements, or even the Kombucha, it is therefore possible to regulate intestinal motility and above all to reduce the discomfort associated with this syndrome, which can also be very painful.
2) A good prevention against bowel cancer and other pathologies
It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. Some studies have shown that microbiota alterations can also favor their onset, due to their impact on the cells of the immune system, especially the intestinal one. For this reason, even if studies are still ongoing, it is considered appropriate to maintain an adequate level of probiotics, considered a form of protection against cancer and all other pathologies connected to the gastrointestinal tract.
3) Yeasts and other “good” probiotics for intimate infections
Not only in the intestine, probiotics also play an important role in the vaginal ecosystem, creating a protective barrier against fungi and germs that can cause infections. Particularly important in this field are the lacrobacilli, which are taken orally or topically. Their function is to maintain acid vaginal PH, i.e. with values that prevent the proliferation of fungi and germs responsible for the main infections (eg candida).
When to take probiotics: best before or after meals
Now it is clear what probiotics are for. But when to take them? Probiotics are not drugs and therefore their intake is relatively free. However, given their important function, the advice is first of all to consult with your family doctor. Always ask the pharmacist which combinations are best suited to your needs.
Also remember that you can also take probiotics in the diet, for example with yogurt or kimchi. Be sure to include this information when consulting with an expert. For example, if you eat yogurt every day, you may inadvertently eat too much.
Finally: probiotics have different strains. When choosing a food or supplement, refer to the label to verify that the product contains at least 1 billion live cells of each strain listed. This is an indicative value referred to by the Ministry of Health, as it offers a greater guarantee of intestinal colonization.
If you take probiotics in supplement form, however, prefer them in the form of coated capsules. These, in fact, allow the microorganisms to reach the intestine by surviving the gastric juices.
And now? All you have to do is consult your doctor and check which intake is right for you, for a healthier and more protected body!