Even if digestion is not exactly a topic people like to discuss in detail with friends, a healthy intestinal flora is essential for well-being. The reason: The central part of our natural defenses is in the intestinal tract – in the form of bacterial cultures. And their composition can be influenced by diet.
Our immune system can only function optimally if the intestinal colonization consists of suitable microorganisms.
What Are Probiotic Cultures?
The probiotics business has been booming ever since marketing the small, sweetened yogurt bottles for drinking. The term probiotic means “for life”.
Anyone who wants to support their intestinal health is not dependent on the well-known plastic bottles from the refrigerated section – even if these are now offered without sugar and made of recycled plastic. The reason: The living bacterial cultures occur naturally in various foods. At the same time, they are increasingly available as dietary supplements, although it is unclear whether the products on offer are beneficial in their composition.
The best-known probiotic bacterial strains include lactic acid bacteria, which are used in the form of so-called lactobacilli (lactobacilli) for the natural preservation of dairy products and vegetables:
- Classic yogurt production: lactose (milk sugar) is converted into lactate (lactic acid) by lactic acid bacteria, and yogurt is made from milk.
- Vegetables fermented with lactic acid: If vegetables such as cucumbers or white cabbage are pickled or fermented using a brine in the absence of oxygen, purely vegetable products such as pickled cucumbers or sauerkraut are produced.
Effects Of Probiotics
Even at the beginning of new life, the maternal microflora influences the child’s gut-associated immune system: the gut flora can inhibit pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract and prevent them from spreading through the blood. This characteristic is based on the recommendation to breastfeed infants in the first few months after birth to promote their natural defenses. This also has digestive effects.
Since the bacteria, also known as microbes, can specifically inhibit harmful substances in the intestine, it is being discussed whether and to what extent probiotics may also have a preventive effect against colon cancer.
What is certain is that probiotic foods positively affect the regeneration of intestinal health in the case of weakened intestinal flora – for example, after antibiotic treatment. The same applies to the consumption of probiotics for digestive problems such as constipation and abdominal pain or a feeling of fullness.
It has also been scientifically proven that fermented foods have a preventive effect on diarrheal diseases and anti-inflammatory effects. 1.2
Due to the anti-inflammatory effects of probiotic cultures, the extent to which people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can benefit from fermented foods is also being discussed.
Probiotics Can Ward Off Colds Or Relieve Symptoms
Since individual strains of bacteria have different effects, it is essential to use the same category of probiotics in sufficient quantities. Depending on the bacterial strain, our immune system can be specifically programmed to protect against viral infections such as colds, for example. In this regard, it is known that an optimally composed intestinal flora can reduce the duration and intensity of a flu infection, as a study by the New Zealand University of Otago in 2013 showed, for example.
Thirty athletes from the New Zealand rugby league were examined in two groups: one group received probiotics as a dietary supplement for four weeks, the other a placebo. They switched after a four-week break, and the probiotics group now received placebos and vice versa.
The results were precise: 14 out of 30 subjects remained free of typical cold symptoms while taking the probiotics. On the other hand, in the placebo group, it was only 6 out of 30 issues. The duration of the colds in the respective groups also differed: in the probiotics group, the symptoms lasted about 3.4 to 4.6 days, compared to 5.8 to 6.6 days in the placebo group.
The following health effects have not yet been proven in detail from nutritional science but are considered probable and have been used successfully in alternative medicine for a long time.
Areas of application of probiotics:
- recurrent diarrhea
- chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Prevention of allergies
- lactose intolerance
- Prevention and therapy of infections
- chronic constipation
- Prevention and therapy of neurodermatitis