Understanding Probiotics

Lab staff member extracting microorganisms from a Petri Dish

Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels

Understanding Probiotics

Probably, at some time in your life, you have heard about the benefits of probiotics. You may have come across various products in the grocery store claiming to have probiotics, but what exactly do they mean? Let’s take a look.

Probiotics are a community of live microorganisms consumed through supplements or fermented foods to improve or increase the microflora in the intestine. Probiotics can be found primarily in fermented foods, dietary supplements, or as an addition to other foods.

There are a variety of microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract like bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, better known as the microflora. Probiotics alter this microflora by adding new organisms to our gastrointestinal tract. The most common microorganisms in probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. These microorganisms can help support the microflora to prevent disease, help with vitamin synthesis, improve gut barrier reinforcement, and neutralize toxins in the body.

The benefits obtained after consuming probiotics will vary depending on the type of active microorganisms and the amount of CFU (Colony Forming Units) present in the supplement, liquid, powder, or food. It is important to emphasize that the amount of CFU in probiotics does not necessarily determine beneficial results for health. Usually, it is common to find products that contain between 1-10 billion CFU or up to 50 CFU in some cases.

Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics. Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that provide the necessary fuel for the microorganisms found in probiotics.

Benefits of Probiotics

The Human Microbiome Project, an initiative from the National Institutes of Health, has been conducting scientific studies for more than 10 years to explore the relationship between microbe variation in the human body and the development of diseases. Some findings show that the microflora of ill individuals vs. healthy individuals varies drastically between them. The variety of beneficial microorganisms to our body remains a focus of today’s research.

Probiotics treat diarrhea, eczema, urinary infections, digestive system infections, Crohn’s disease, constipation, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and other diseases. Probiotics are generally safe to use. However, people with a compromised immune system or who are severely ill should be cautious when using probiotics.

If you want to integrate probiotics, remember to weigh the risks and benefits of probiotics. Traditionally fermented foods are known for their high probiotic content and are associated with health benefits. Some foods known for their high probiotic content are yogurt, kefir, cheese, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. You can also digest probiotic supplements in tablets or powders.

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About Jessimar Lopez

Jessimar Lopez graduated from the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus with a bachelor’s degree in audiovisual communications and participated in a study abroad internship at the University of Málaga with the sponsorship of the Benjamin G. Gilman Scholarship. She joined the Empower Brokerage team in 2022 as a videographer and editor.

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