Volume 3 Issue 1

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The word probiotics means "for (or pro) life." In 2001, the World Health Organization (www.who. int) coined the following definition for probiotics: "Probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." In other words, probiotics are the "good" bacteria. Your intestinal friendly bacteria can be called your "indigenous probiotics." Prebiotics are non- digestible food ingredients, like inulin, that stimulate the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the digestive system in ways believed to be beneficial to health and are not consumed by the bad bacteria. In the following sections, we take a closer look at how probiotics and prebiotics work. Probiotics: The action figures The concept of probiotics was born in the early 20th century when Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff hypothesized that eating fermented milk products improved the life span of Bulgarian peasants. He concluded that fermented milk helped to "seed" the intestine with friendly bacteria, which suppressed the growth of harmful bacteria. Fermentation is adding bacteria or yeast to foods, which causes a chemical breakdown. Metchnikoff was the first to suggest that it would be possible to modify the gut flora by replacing harmful bacteria with useful microorganisms. He later won a Nobel Prize for his work. Every society has consumed some type of fermented food on a daily basis, and anthropologists theorize this practice dates from prehistoric times. In the days before refrigeration, fermentation was the safest and simplest way of preserving foods. Fermented milks are the best example of early probiotics. Milk turns sour in hot climates, so many people deliberately fermented milk to make curd, or yogurt. Today, the same curd or yogurt is made in a controlled environment by adding live cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Probiotics are categorized using Latin nomenclature that identifies genus and species, respectively. So Lactobacillus means a bacterium that produces lactic acid (milk acid), and acidophilus means the bacterium is a species that grows well in acid environments, such as your stomach. Probiotics perform useful functions when ingested: * They alter the gut flora pattern to your benefit and adhere to the intestinal wall, crowding out harmful bacteria. * They produce antimicrobial substances (enzymes or proteins) that inhibit or kill bad bacteria. * They produce compounds the cells lining the GI tract can use as energy. Defining Prebiotics and Probiotics by: Shekhar K. Challa, M.D. Prominent Gastroenterologist Page 24 | Abby's Magazine -

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