Probiotics: the harmless tiny organisms


This is the era of being health-conscious, making better food and lifestyle choices. Lifestyle-related disorders such as diabetes and obesity are at an all-time high. In this scenario, the younger generation is becoming more aware. Daily workouts and healthy eating are the new cool. Today we will be discussing a bit on the topic of ‘probiotics since an increase in commercial probiotic products has occurred in recent times. This article will act as a guide for you to pick your probiotic or not. Many useful articles have been put as references.

According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics, probiotics are “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. 

These are mostly bacteria (a few times yeast as well) whose presence in our body has beneficial effects. Innumerable bacteria reside in our mouth, genitals, and intestines. Genus of bacteria commonly used in probiotics is Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. However, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are the most widely used ones. Anyone interested in further nomenclature related information can check the link given below.

The goal is to create a healthy digestive tract and immune system with the help of these tiny organisms. The field of probiotics is still in its infancy. Several research as to the effect on human health of administering these bacteria is ongoing. The most common proven impact that probiotics have is on lactose intolerance, cholesterol reduction, oral health, antibiotic-assisted diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Lactose Intolerance is a common problem with most of us, especially with growing age. It is a condition wherein the digestive tract becomes less capable of digesting lactose which is widely present in dairy products. It is often accompanied by bloating, diarrhea, and other gut issues. Probiotics alter the microflora in the gut which indirectly aids in lactose digestion. Maintenance of oral microflora by administering probiotics can be done. Studies show that along with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus uberis and Streptococcus oralis can fight harmful pathogens in our mouth which lead to tonsillitis, halitosis, pharyngitis, and even gum bleeding. Cholesterol is a devil to our body only when it is in excess.

It increases the risk of heart diseases through clogging of arteries. Research works have shown that probiotics were given for 3 months to patients which high cholesterol levels, showed lowered cholesterol levels. Probiotics are also helpful in maintaining women’s genital health. A detailed discussion can be found in the reference given below.

New perspectives on probiotics in health and disease, E.B.-M. Daliri, B.H. Lee / Food Science and Human Wellness 4 (2015) 56–65.

Nations such as Italy and Canada have been regulating the usage of probiotic bacteria in foods for a decade. The minimum number of cells is 109 CFU which is also recommended by Canada. Evidence for reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. A study conducted over 6500 individuals consuming yogurt was found to have lesser insulin resistance compared to those who didn’t.

For the convenience of consumers, ideally commercial probiotic products should meet certain criteria such as mentioning the health benefits or all of the ingredients in their products. Regulations and restrictions often prohibit them from revealing such information. All of these and more have been elaborately described in the following consensus statement available on

“The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic”

Much carefulness and research are involved in developing a probiotic supplement. When we ingest anything, it passes through our entire digestive tract which releases a lot of chemical compounds such as acids, enzymes necessary for digesting the food. Thus, a probiotic should be able to withstand all of those conditions. Hence they need to be protected by encapsulation. Encapsulation materials need to be not GRAS certified.

Moreover, these bacteria shouldn’t trigger an antibiotic response which would be an adverse effect. 100g/day of probiotics is said to be able to deliver the recommended 109 viable bacterial cells. Consumers need to be aware of all of these said things before the consumption of probiotics. It is always advisable to consult a medical professional. Interested readers can give this article a read.

Probiotics in Food Systems: Significance and Emerging Strategies Towards Improved Viability and Delivery of Enhanced Beneficial Value, Nutrients 2019, 11, 1591; doi:10.3390/nu11071591 

Any kind of fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, cheese, etc contains probiotics. More examples of natural probiotic foods can be found in the link given below. One can think of the incorporation of these into their daily diet.

A detailed discussion on the kind of bacteria present in each of these fermented foods and their health benefits can be found in the link below.

Things to keep in mind though for people staying in the US is that the FDA doesn’t regulate probiotic supplements. Moreover, the sellers do not have to prove the health benefits of their products. A good guideline can be found in the following article.

Whether to consume probiotic-rich food or a supplement would depend on a cocktail of all of the factors mentioned above. Some foods contain amines which can cause headaches, in that case, one can switch on to supplements. The other side effects such as digestion issue, allergies from ingredients in the supplements are discussed in detail in the article given below. It is a must-read before considering the purchase or consumption of probiotics.

The bottom line remains that the health benefits and appropriate dosage of probiotic supplements are not well explored or known. One must be cautious and mindful thereof. 

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