Probiotics are the live bacteria and yeasts that are referred to as the good microorganisms that are required in the body because they are beneficial to us as they aid us with the improved digestive system. Probiotics are marketed in forms of food, dietary supplements for humans and for animals as well. These are the good bacteria that line the intestine of humans and attaches to the epithelial cells, these bacteria that resides in the large intestine of human body help repopulate the good bacteria that are already an integral part of the GUT. These are the bacteria that keep us healthy.

Elie metchinkof was the first person to give the concept of probiotics. He was the first scientist who proposed the therapeutic use of lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria were first discovered by Pasture in 1857. And their isolation from rancid milk was reported by lister in 1878. Further, the bifidobacterium was discovered by tisser in 1889, and the first stable cultures of lactobacillus casei strain shirota were made by DR. minoru in 1930.

Prebiotics, whereas, are the food for these probiotics. Because, if probiotics are living things then they must need food for their metabolism and survival, this food is called prebiotics. Prebiotic is a soluble plant fiber that is not digested by human body and beneficially nourishes the good bacteria that are already present in the large intestine. Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Oligofructose (OF), Chicory fibre or Inulin are the examples of prebiotics.

Probiotics are the ones thatn introduce good bacteria into the gut, and prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s already present there. They help the good bacteria to grow, repopulate and flourish, which is responsible for improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio in the human intestine. This ratio has been shown to have a direct correlation to health and overall wellbeing, from stomach to brain.

Prebioticsare not as sensitive as probiotics, they are not destroyed in the body. They are not destroyed by heat or other bodily environment like acidic environment of the stomach. Getting the full benefits of prebiotics is easy, especially when consumed in a full-spectrum supplement form.

The site of action of various prebiotics:

  1. The OF and the FOS acts at the right side of the large intestine
  2. Inulin acts at the left side of the intestine
  3. Prebiotin is a full spectrum prebiotic that acts all over the large intestine. And that is why it is considered as the best prebiotic available in the market. Prebiotin formula of prebiotic supplements contains both inulin and oligofructose. This full spectrum formula treats the entire bowel wall for maximum effectiveness. Prebiotin benefits the probiotics present anywhere throughout the intestine.

The good gut bacterium are important as:

  • They produce vitamin B12, butyrate and vitamin K2
  • They flush out bad bacteria, yeast and fungi
  • They create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria

The first encounter of the human baby with the probiotic is when the baby is born as in the birth canal the baby is exposed to the bacteria that is present in the vagina of the mother. This trigerrs a series of reactions and events in the GI tract of the baby and the tract then starts to produce bacteria. The lactobacillus is present in the vaginal part of the women.

Our body is an ecosystem where our cells and bacteria live in harmony or may even work together.

Specially in our intestine hundreds and thousands of bacterial species colonize, hence it becomes important to maintain the good to bad bacteria ratio to prevent the bad effects caused by bad bacteria as the good bacteria possesses antimicrobial activity, hence are helpful in killing pathogens and also cure bloating and constipation.

But if this good to bad bacteria ratio is disrupted we will need antibiotics to overcome the infections caused by bad bacteria. To prevent pathogenic infections and to maintain good to bad bacteria ratio is important, that’s where Probiotics comes in.

How are probiotics helpful?

Probiotics are not necessary for the body to be healthy but these good microorganisms assist the good moicroorganisms already present in the GUT and they also aid in decreasing any pathogenic or bad bacteria in the intestine.

They can help in number of ways:

  1. Decrease the number of “bad” bacteria in gut that can cause infections or inflammation
  2. Replace the body’s “good” bacteria that might have been killed while taking a prescription, antibiotics for example.
  3. Restore the body’s “good” versus “bad” bacterial ratio, which then helps to keep your body functioning properly.

Examples of probiotics:

Probiotics that are naturally found in your intestines include:

Saccharomyces boulardii (a yeast)

Bacteria in the Lactobacillus and Bifobacterium families of microorganisms.

Foods that contain probiotics: some juices, soy drinks, fermented and unfermented milk, buttermilk, some soft cheeses, miso, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and many pickles.

Supplements: dietary probiotic supplements: These are available in the form of capsules, tablets, powders and liquid extracts — each contain a specific type of probiotic.

The foods that have probiotics are mostly dairy foods such as, yogurt, yogurt drinks and shakes, frozen yogurt, cultured soy products, kefir, some cottages cheeses, and Sweet Acidophilus milk. Kefir is a cultured drink similar to yogurt.

Foods are better choices for probiotics than supplements because foods have components that may work together to give a bigger health effect than taking probiotics from supplements. 

Dairy products especially, may be the best way to get probiotics because they help protect the probiotic bacteria as they travel through the high acid levels of the stomach, ensuring survival into the intestine.  Another benefit to getting probiotics from food is that they supply other nutrients too.  Fermented and cultured dairy and soy products are a source of calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, potassium and protein.

Prebiotic fiber can be found in many fruits and vegetables, such as the skin of apples, bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, and beans.

you can take probiotics and prebiotics together. Prebiotics do not negatively interact with probiotics. Prebiotics do not interfere with medications, either. Generally,  probiotics and prebiotics are safe when taken together.

In fact, when you think about how probiotics and prebiotics work, it makes sense to take them together. Simply put, prebiotics are “food” for probiotics. Probiotics digest prebiotics and use the molecules as energy. In some ways, probiotics and prebiotics act synergistically for gut health.


Various medical conditions in which probiotics are helpful

Digestive tract conditions: Probiotic supplements may be useful in treating and preventing inflammatory conditions, such as pouchitis (which affects people who have their colons removed), inflammatory bowel diseases (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), and chronic stomach inflammation and ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori bacterium, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux. They are also helpful in treating diarrhea which is caused as a common side effect of treatment with antibiotics. It has also been shown to prevent or treat urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections in women.

Are probiotics safe for everyone?

Probiotics are not for the people having compromised immune systems like HIV patients or the peole with autoimmune diseases. Probiotics may trigger allergic reactions also. They may also cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence (passing gas) and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them. However, since probiotics already exist naturally in the body, probiotic foods and supplements are generally considered to be safe. Whereas, one should always consult their doctors before starting to take any supplement.