|Now-a-days lots of dietetic products and dairy products contain probiotics and the question that immediately arises in the mind is whether these products are safe for long term consumption, how do they benefit and are there any side effects?
Probiotics in simple terms are live microbes which when consumed have a beneficial effect on health and well being. Prebiotics are dietary carbohydrates which promote growth of good bacteria in the intestine and thus help to decrease the growth of disease causing bacteria (bad bacteria) in the intestines.
How do probiotics help in better health?
The initial use of probiotics was found in patients with diarrhea. It was found that patients with diarrhea tolerated yogurt much better as compared to milk. That is because yogurt is produced from fermentation of milk. The fermentation takes place with help of certain probiotic organisms such as lactobacillus which decreases the lactose concentration in dairy products that helps to decrease the diarrheal stools as compared to plain milk. Subsequently probiotics were manufactured separately and found to have beneficial effects in diarrhea (treatment as well as prevention), prevention of cow milk-induced allergy, improve digestion in elderly population and also urinary tract infections.
How do probiotics act?
Several mechanisms have been described to explain the effects of probiotics. Probiotics improve the immunity in the intestines and thus prevent growth of bad bacteria. They improve lactase levels in the intestine and help in lactose malabsorption and decrease certain types of diarrhea.
Are long term probiotics safe in children?
There are several studies that have shown that long term ingestion of probiotics in healthy children leads to lesser incidence of coughing episodes, fever episodes and even absenteeism from school due to health related problems. Since these probiotics are not absorbed in the body and remain only in the intestines, they do not cause side effects in the body usually. Infact probiotics have also been used in premature babies who have severe intestinal infection to decrease the severity of intestinal disease as well as prevent intestinal infection in these babies. There is increasing evidence that probiotics have beneficial effects in preventing a wide range of conditions and improving health including diarrhea, atopic eczema, urinary tract infection, and dental caries.