What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that reside inside our gastrointestinal tract. The better gut flora we possess the better health we may have as per researches. Probiotics are also known as good gut bacteria or friendly bacteria. Fermented foods and supplements help in improving these good gut bacteria in our body and further helps in digestion and betterment of health.
The most commonly used probiotic food is curd, yogurt, pickle, kefir, kanji, and kimchee. The most common bacteria culture is of lactobacillus bacteria. There are many different species of same bacteria and different strains. We have different combinations of these strains in our system which makes our system unique in digesting the same food every time we eat.
Relationship between probiotic food and Gut Health.
The kind of food we eat determines the kind of gut flora we will have. There are many functions of gut flora like turning fibers to butyrate and acetate this protects our gut walls. Gut flora also produces vitamin K and B. The strong gut wall works as immune system and protects us from infection.
- Brain is linked to gut – You might have heard about the Vagus nerve called a pneumogastric nerve. The nerve which connects our feelings to gut and the amazing fact is there are 500 million neurons that are connected to brain through nervous system. One study suggested reduced vagus nerve function in Irritable bowel syndrome patients. Gut bacteria create hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to maintain learning, mood and memory. Gut cells have a memory which gives a signal to brain cells to produce certain hormones and chemicals for example when we eat at one time every day the single passes to brain to start process of digestion but someday when don’t eat at same time we still produce chemical for digestion and feel hungry or acidic.
- Like your DNA your Gut bacteria are unique – our Gut flora develops till the age of three years. This micro bacterial flora is unique in nature. Same like fingerprints or DNA, it is given by mother and grows in colonies in years. In these years our immune function, cognitive function and digestion all are important parts of gut flora establishment.
- Stress affects Gut Bacteria – In conditions like interviews, exams or presentations we observe watery stools or during stress and high anxiety constipation occurs. This is because the gut bacteria reduces. There are neurotransmitters in gut that produce feel-good factors like serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety. There are reports by NIH which suggest people who consumed dosas have relaxed behavior than those who don’t consume fermented foods. Probiotic foods also suppresses hunger as they produce butyrate and propionates which controls cravings generated due to stress. Diet and lifestyle affect your Gut flora, so only supplements don’t help if lifestyle is affected. However if the Gut flora is maintained with proper probiotic food or supplement along with a happy lifestyle, then the overall health could be improved.
Author- Ms.Tripti Khanna
M.Sc. - Food and Nutrition, Post Graduate In Food Science And Nutrition