Probiotics: what foods can they be found in and what health benefits do they have?

The intake of probiotics should be supervised by a specialist.

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the body’s “good” bacteria (normal microbiota), according to Mayo Clinic.

In addition, they provide benefits such as the strengthening of the immune system, the balance of the intestinal flora, the stimulus to the production of vitamins, the support to digestion and the contribution in diarrheal pictures, of intolerance to lactose, allergies, and diarrhea of the traveler, caused by eating contaminated food.

Similarly, probiotics increase resistance to infections by potentially pathogenic organisms in the intestine, increase nutritional value (better digestion, increased absorption of vitamins and minerals), regulate intestinal morbidity (relieve constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, among others), maintenance the integrity of the intestinal mucosa.

According to Dr. Ana María Agar, an immunologist at the German Clinic in Santiago de Chile, “probiotics are living microorganisms that, after intake of a certain amount, exert health benefits beyond basic natural nutrition.”

The Clinic also explained on its website that the main functions of probiotics are:

  • Displace microorganisms harmful to health and prevent their proliferation.
  • Collaborate in the formation of essential nutrients such as vitamins, enzymes and fatty acids.
  • Stimulate the formation of lactic acid, decreasing the pH of the digestive tract.
  • Promote the absorption of calcium, iron and magnesium.
  • Reduce diarrhea by antibiotics, which alter the balance of the intestinal flora, which is restored thanks to these microorganisms.

In addition, probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, olives, and pickles, among others. However, there are also medications with probiotics.

“Dairy products are an excellent vehicle for probiotics, protecting them from the high levels of acid in our stomach and the concentration of bile in the gut, which can harm or eliminate many of us who eat. That is, it increases the chance that beneficial bacteria will survive as they pass through the gut,” Dr. Agar told the German Clinic.

However, it is important to consult a doctor, as the intake of probiotics should be supervised by a specialist.

“Probiotics act primarily on the digestive tract, where they can affect the gut microbiome. This microbiome is made up of many microorganisms (mostly bacteria) that live mainly in the large intestine. When a person eats or drinks enough probiotics, they help protect the digestive system from harmful microorganisms, improve digestion and bowel function, and could also provide other health benefits,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explained.

For their part, the institutes noted that in healthy people, probiotics can cause gas, but rarely cause infections or other health problems and that probiotics are more likely to cause problems, such as bacterial infections, in people who are already seriously ill or have a weak immune system.

In fact, according to the Clínica Los Condes de Santiago de Chile, in some cases, it has been shown that the consumption of probiotic foods produced a decrease in the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and have been able to delay their appearance, even for several years.

It should be noted that the committee of experts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that “probiotics are living microorganisms that, administered in adequate quantities, exert a beneficial effect on the health of the consumer”.

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