Published: 04/23/2015 - Updated: 04/08/2016
Author: Miriam Reyes
Probiotic foods are any foods that contain some or several species of bacteria that, upon entering the digestive system, join with bacterial flora in a positive fashion, improving the defenses in this important area of the body. This area receives everything that goes into the mouth, and it must accept it. It is impossible to isolate oneself all the time from the harmful bacteria swarming around food. It can happen so easily as the wind blowing a bit of dirt into your food, or your water becoming slightly contaminated, or if one of your favorite vegetables isn’t cleaned properly. All day, every day, we are exposing ourselves to these situations, and luckily our immune system is very effective at defending us. That’s why we don’t get sick every day. But you also need to give your immune system a hand so it doesn’t succumb to any of the little bugs that could give you a bad time.
Foods that have been developed and which most commonly contain this bacteria, are fermented foods (that is, if they are prepared appropriately and hygienically). Dairy derivatives are the most popular types of food for consuming these helpful bacteria. The concept of regulating the microorganisms that live in our bodies was born during the first part of this past century, while searching for microorganisms that could compete against other microorganisms that damaged our bodies when taking root in them. This in itself served as a great help to the efforts that our immune systems make. The most famous microorganisms in probiotic foods are lactobacillus.
Lactobacillus are beneficial bacteria for the gastrointestinal tract, both for men and women. They are recommended for treating diarrhea, which is primarily caused by harmful bacteria. This isn’t the only type of protection they offer, however. Any time you are required to take antibiotics, you lose a large part of your natural intestinal flora (including treatment for parasite removal). Because these treatments are not selective, not only do they destroy harmful bacteria or parasites, they also destroy beneficial bacteria that merge with us. Not consuming probiotic foods, like probiotic dairy beverages, yogurt, or foods like sauerkraut (which is fermented) after finishing any of these treatments, could cause one to suffer from intestinal problems afterwards. After beneficial bacteria disappears, your body becomes an open playing field for accommodating harmful bacteria that could evade your immune system.
There are a lot of lactobacillus species, L. casei and L. acidophilus being some of the best known. They divide into several strains that can have different properties, which are registered by different companies or institutions that promote and commercialize their benefits. It is therefore important to educate yourself to see if the effects are appropriate for what you would like to achieve in your body.
Depending on these qualities, lactobacillus can help one to tolerate lactose, control cholesterol levels, help counteract inflammatory problems, help produce vitamins (K, folic acid, and B12), flatulence problems, along with other interesting effects.
L. acidophilus strains, which are commonly advertised in probiotic dairy drinks, can help better digest products that contain lactose, and can help people that are intolerant to this sugar. L. casei on the other hand, is famous for controlling Helicobacter pilori bacterial colonies, which are sometimes associated with gastritis problems. L. casei is also found in some cheeses.
Like everything in this life, however, lactobacillus also has undesirable effects that always need to be balanced out whenever you want to consume them. Even excessive amounts of water could be harmful to health, but the important thing is that when consuming something, the beneficial impact is always greater than the negative. The positive impact that lactobacillus has is generally greater than the negative, in most cases. Some of these undesirable effects that could at times occur include the lactobacillus in the mouth could cause cavities, and in some people, it can create allergies.
Not all products that claim to contain lactobacillus or probiotics are necessarily beneficial. Sometimes the strains of bacteria used are not fit for passing through gastric acids when being ingested orally. In this case, you end up consuming a sweet drink or some type of yogurt that doesn’t provide many benefits in regards to protecting intestinal flora (which is why the appropriate technology and research is needed to know if a quality product has been created). There is also the possibility that in some people, no effect is generated. Knowing that there are some foods, however, that contain a living component that will then later become part of you, is revolutionary, and it is worth exploring more about foods that may contain it every day.
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