Maintaining the normal gut flora by supplementation
Probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are believed to provide health benefits when consumed.Prebiotics are non-digestible fibre that passes through the upper gastrointestinal tract unchanged until it gets to the large intestine. In the large intestine it acts as a substrate for the normal flora providing nourishment and growth of the good microorganisms there.
By these definitions, we see that the normal gut flora can be maintained in two major ways. Firstly, by supplying live microorganisms (probiotics) to the gut to increase the colony. Secondly, nutrients in the form of indigestible fibre which provide nourishment for growth of the existing microorganisms in the gut.
Symbiotic is a combination of the two methods described above.
There are numerous probiotics on sale in shops in the land. These different types of probiotic supplements also contain different strains of microorganisms and they all play different roles in the body. Some of such roles are of specific health benefits to the body. In choosing a probiotic supplement therefore, one has to know the microorganisms in the supplement, their roles and the health benefits they confer on the body. In some cases, this specificity may not be so obvious. When this is the case, a probiotic with a lot of different microorganisms should be chosen.
Below is a list of microorganisms found in readily available probiotic supplements in this part of the world and their health benefits to the human body:
This microorganism has anti-inflammatory properties and can also bind and eliminate heavy metals from the body.
Lactobacillus acidophilus reduces bloating and gas, digests lactose for which it is very important in cases of lactose intolerance. It also deals with unfriendly bacteria, especially E. Coli, reducing their colony.Other probiotics that inhibit harmful bacteria are bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium breve and lactobacillus bulgaris.
There are also probiotics that help to boost the immune system and these are lactobacillus casei, bacillus subtillis and lactobacillus brevis.Lactobacillus rhamnosus supports healthy skin and is useful in the treatment of both the urinary tract infection and respiratory tract infection. This probiotic also helps to reduce anxiety by blocking the function of the stress hormone.
Probiotics also take part in the production of vitamin K and B12 and are useful in the absorption of minerals like magnesium and iron and fatty acids.
Lactobacillus brevis enhances cellular immunity and inhibits Helicobacter Pylori, the organism that is implicated in the development of stomach ulcer.This list is by no means exhaustive, but I have tried to include common microorganisms that you will find written on the labels on the bottles that contain these probiotics. This is indeed the idea, that we be familiar with some of the names so that we may also recognise them on those labels.
Apart from these probiotic supplements, there are probiotic-rich foods that can provide sufficient amounts of microorganisms to the gut. These are usually vegetables, soy products and dairy products that are allowed to ferment.
Commonest among the probiotic-rich foods found in this clime is yogurt. This is from the milk of goats, sheep or cow, which has been kept to ferment. The goat, sheep and cow used have to be grass-fed and organic. In other words, such animals that have been treated with antibiotics and growth hormones should be avoided.
Yogurt is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It is also a good source of vitamin B12. Apart from this, yogurt has other health benefits to the body and they include maintenance of a healthy gut microflora, resulting in a healthy digestive tract. It prevents conditions such as diabetes, constipation, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Yogurt is cheap and readily available and I will like to recommend it as a food that maintains the normal gut flora and to keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy.