According to World Health Organization (WHO) probiotics are live microorganisms that are invisible to the naked eye. Probiotics are defined alternatively as live microbial supplements that affect the host by improving intestinal microbial balance. They are also referred to as “good bacteria” and are similar to the organisms found in the human body. These organisms when administered in sufficient amounts may have beneficial effect on a person’s health.
Probiotics contains different types of bacteria and the effect varies from person to person. Probiotics are food products and not pharmaceuticals; hence the effect produced is not dramatic or very large.
These have been demonstrated to be effective in variety of health conditions including travelers’ diarrhea, antibiotic associated diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, atopic eczema, oral health and certain inflammatory conditions. The strains most frequently used as probiotic include lactic acid bacillus and bifidobacteria.
In U.S. and Europe, supermarkets and pharmacies are flooded with probiotics and claim that they improve health. They are available as dietary supplements, including capsules, tablets, and powders and in dairy foods like yogurt. However, clinically proven probiotics are not available in developing world and are certainly not affordable by majority of the population. The availability of probiotics in developed nations corresponds to a growing consumer demand for foods that improve health and maintain wellness.
Mechanism of Action
Probiotic dairy products appear to be an excellent means as nutritious foods. Mechanism of action includes positive effect on the immune system and production of antimicrobial (substances that remove harmful organisms) agents. They beneficially affect the host by improving survival and implantation of live dietary supplements in the gastrointestinal flora. Organisms like streptococcus thermophiles and lactobacillus delbrueckii species are incorporated into the yogurt and are used by probiotics.
Intestinal micro flora changes have been associated with enhanced risk of specific diseases. Therefore, to correct the imbalance you need probiotic therapy. It is important to mention that the probiotic strain should be well tolerated by the immune system. It should not be allergic or disease causing.
Probiotics are becoming increasingly important owing to the rapid emergence of antibiotic resistance and the adverse effects of antibiotics on the protective intestinal flora, which enhances the risk of infection. A large body of animal and human research has provided evidence that specific strains of probiotics are able to stimulate as well as regulate natural and acquired immune responses. However, efficacy of probiotics against immunological disorders such as asthma, cancers, diabetes, and arthritis in humans is yet to be proven. Research has shown that the probiotics are safe with fewer side effects. However, the data on safety is limited. With probiotic usage, the risk of serious side effects may be seen in immunocompromised people or the people with an underlying health condition.
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