Public interest has escalated since the last decade in foods that have natural probiotics. People are too much concerned these days for improved well-being in this era of a pandemic. There are plenty of published articles available on the significance of foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics which are necessary for good growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut.
Probiotics have several health benefits and people who consume probiotic foods reap these advantages which include:
- Immune system strengthening and attenuation
- Protection from diseases like diarrhea and respiratory tract infections
- Anticancer effects
A plethora of microorganisms are present in our bodies all the time. Some microbes are beneficial and some are harmful. Generally, probiotics are the microbes that provide health benefits to our body by improving gut health.
Prebiotics are the food components that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. These food components are not digestible in the small intestine but serve as the fuel to probiotics. Mostly, these comprise of a list of foods that have natural probiotics.
Gut Microbes in Humans
Our gut has several microbes that render several benefits to our health for improved well-being. A variety of microbes are present including good, bad, and harmful microbes in our gut. Collectively, another name for all these gut microbes is gut microflora.
Modern advancement in food science tells us that if bad microbes number rise in the gut then we fall prey to disease. Microbes’ effect is dependent on their population and locality in our bodies.
Beneficial bacteria are probiotic and help to maintain good health. These bacteria provide immune-boosting effects and help to decrease the growth of bad gut bacteria and hence provide disease protection.
Famous beneficial gut microbes are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Harmful Gut Microbes
These are the “bad guys” in vast populations of microflora present in the gut. If they are less in number then we cannot have any adverse effect on our health.
However, when these harmful bacteria outnumber the good microbes then this weakens our immune system and decreases immunity to fight infections. With weak immunity, we can have a disease and harmful effects on our health due to these bad gut bacteria.
Harmful microbes include:
- Candida albicans
It is a type of yeast and it causes infection in our bodies. It is one of the most notorious members of the bad gut microbes group.
- Clostridum difficile
It is a type of bacterium which resides in our gut and if increases in number then it may cause diarrhea.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Similar, to C. difficile, it also belongs to the bacterial group and if outnumber in terms of its growth then I can also lead to the onset of pneumonia.
Beneficial and Harmful Microbes
At lower levels, certain potentially harmful bacteria actually impart good effect to the body, but, if their population overwhelmingly grows in number or if they change their location from intestinal lining to other parts of the body then they may cause disease in human beings.
These improve the intestinal tract health and aid in digestion improvement of dietary carbohydrates. However, if certain strains of these microbes move to other parts out of the intestine then it may cause disease onset.
At lower population levels, these microbes help to synthesize vitamins B12 and K. However, in case of outnumbering and locality change, these microbes may cause infection to lungs which in turn leads to bacterial pneumonia.
Probiotic and Prebiotic Effects on Health
Antidepressant effect of probiotics
Probiotic consumption decreases stress levels. In case of physical or emotional distress, our brain gets signal of this distress and triggers the release of chemical messengers and stress hormones. This is the reason we experience increased heartbeat when we frighten and face stressful situations.
Probiotics help to protect from diseases caused by stress:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Digestive problems
- Ailments associated with stress
Impact of Stress on Gut Microflora
Stress hormones levels, such as Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine increase during stress and high stress hormones aggravate the growth of harmful bacteria like E. coli.
Effects of Probiotics/Prebiotics on Other Diseases
Colorectal Cancer & Lactobacillus
Milk is a very excellent source of Lactobacillus bacteria which helps to decrease the incidence of colorectal cancer.
Fruits and vegetables are very wonderful sources of soluble dietary fiber which helps to lower cholesterol in our body. Soluble fiber also acts as prebiotic material for beneficial bacteria and hence use of probiotic foods also protects from cardiovascular diseases.
Oatmeal, vegetables, and oats are versatile sources of fiber that provide the anti-obesity effect. Probiotic foods help to maintain the ideal BMI range. Hence, people who consume probiotic foods maintain overall well-bring for longer times due to high fiber intake and consequently increases in populations of probiotic bacteria.
Foods That Have Natural Probiotics in Them
Until now, no recommended daily intake exists for probiotic foods. Therefore, the general dietary guidelines specify that we should use adequate amounts of fermented foods in our diet plan.
Why Fermented Foods are Good Prebiotics?
Fermentation is one of the most trivial methods of preserving foods. Foods that undergo fermentation involve a process called lactofermentaion. During this process, natural starches and sugar found in foodstuffs serve as the feed material for natural bacteria. This process promotes the preservation of food materials and produces a conducive environment for good gut bacteria by promoting production of beneficial enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.
All fermented foods undergo transformation after fermentation, such as cucumbers turn in to pickles, soybean becomes miso, milk turns into yogurt, sour cream and cheeses, and cabbage turns into sauerkraut.
It is not necessary for all foods to act as probiotic as some foods during processing lack their probiotic effect like wine, or baking or canning processes make them inactive. However, the majority of the fermented foods are probiotic foods and improves microflora in our gut.
Most Common Foods having Probiotics Naturally
Most common fermented foods which have probiotics added to them or contain natural probiotics are:
- Sourdough bread
- Some cheeses
Probiotics are incredibly healthy foods and you can eat them to maintain your overall well-being and strengthen immunity. If somebody cannot eat probiotic foods due to smell/taste issues then they can consume probiotic supplements that can exert beneficial effects on their health.