Probiotics are living micro-organisms such as the yeast, bacteria, or viruses present in our intestinal flora. Their function is to stimulate the immune system. But in order to ensure their efficacy, there are certain steps you need to take. Read on to find out more.
What’s the big deal about probiotics?
When we are in good health, our digestive tract can contain over 100,000 billion bacteria from over 400 different families. When our intestinal flora is out of balance, probiotics can help us correct this imbalance.
Several scientific studies have shown the efficacy of probiotics, particularly in the cases of:
- lactose intolerance
- infectious diarrhea in children and babies (with healing and preventative properties)
- acute gastroenteritis (limitation and prevention)
- diarrhea when on antibiotics
- inflammatory diseases of the intestines, such as ulcerative collitis (relapse prevention)
Stress, long term poor diet and certain medications (such as antibiotics) alter the quality of our gut flora and give pathogenic germs the chance to develop. Probiotics help rebalance and replenish the intestinal flora.
It is living micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, yeast) that provide adequate quantities of probiotics to have a beneficial effect on our health. Their presence promotes the digestion of foodstuffs, especially lactose. They help maintain equilibrium in the intestinal flora (the microbiota) and fight against the spread of harmful micro-organisms.
The good news is that we consume them daily in fermented products.
Probiotics work through diverse mechanisms
Probiotics work via the following mechanisms:
- The production of substances (lactic acid, antimicrobial agents, etc.) that work on pathogenic germs
- Preventing pathogenic germs from taking hold, by competing with them for a place to ‘stick’, stimulating the production mucus and improving the functioning of the gut wall.
- Modulation of the intestinal immune system
- Specific metabolic activities
- Modulation of the activity of the intestines via an intermediary called “the gut-brain axis”
What are the main probiotics?
There are two particular types of probiotic:
- lactic bacteria (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and certain Streptococcus), which are sensitive to anitbiotics, and contained in fermented milk products and lacto-fermented vegetables (yoghurt, Kefir, tempeh, Miso, etc.)
- live brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces boulardii), which are not sensitive to antibiotics but sensitive to antifungal agents.
Each probiotic has a targeted action: some boost immunity, and others improve digestive transit. Always check with a health professional that you are taking the correct probiotic for your needs.
What are the benefits of probiotics?
You need to take probiotics regularly to effectively and optimally replenish gut flora.
When taken in conjunction with rehydration measures, certain probiotics reduce the risk and duration of infectious diarrhea, especially lactic bacteria and Saccharomyces Boulardii yeast.
Prevention of travellers diarrhea
Travellers diarrhea affects between 15 and 60% of tourists. It is generally caused by the E. coli bacteria.
Daily doses of Saccharomyces boulardii yeast provides effective protection against travellers diarrhea.
Relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases
For patients affected by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel diseases, taking probiotics can:
- improve people’s overall health
- reduce the frequency and intensity of abdominal pain, flatulence and bloating
- promote digestive transit
Improve the functioning of the digestive system
Taking probiotics can improve the digestion of lactose. In fact, milk containing lactose requires a digestive enzyme called lactase in order to be digested. However, although this is present in children, it stops being produced in around 70% of adults. Consumption of probiotics can thus improve the digestion of dairy products.
In the case of constipation, certain lactic bacteria can accelerate intestinal transit (Bifidobacterium lactis).
However, if you are taking probiotics while taking antibiotics, be sure to space out the doses to intervals of at least 2 hours. What’s more, you should continue taking probiotics for at least 15 days after the end of an infectious illness. Talk to a health professional about whether you should continue taking probiotics.