There are many claims that probiotics can help with anything from diarrhoea to hypertension and cancer, but for most of those claims, the evidence is not clear. Research has been ongoing and these are some of the potential benefits in established research.
1. Acute Infectious Diarrhoea – Lactobacillus (most common genus of probiotics) can be used as a safe and effective treatment for children with acute infectious diarrhoea.
2. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – May provide relief of some symptoms from diarrhoea to abdominal pain and bloating.
3. Lactose-intolerance – Fermented dairy products like yoghurt generate fewer uncomfortable symptoms than non-fermented milk.
There are 2 ways in which probiotics can flourish in the gut, through fermented food and probiotics supplement. Do note that not all fermented foods contain probiotics, some are removed through baking and canning.
Probiotics foods that are commonly found in the market:
1. Yoghurt – Made from milk and fermented by Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Choose yoghurt wisely as some are labelled as fat free or low fat may have high amount of sugar.
2. Tempeh – A fermented soybean product with a firm patty and nutty aroma. The fermentation process helps to produce Vitamin B12 (mainly found in animal products) which soybeans itself do not contain.
3. Kimchi – A type of fermented side dish in Korea. Kimchi can come in various form, from carrots to mushrooms or orange. Cabbage is the most common type of Kimchi we see in the market. Mixing with a variety of seasonings, Kimchi contains high amount of Lactobacillus Kimchii.
4. Miso – A type of Japanese seasoning, Miso, is made by fermenting soybeans with a type of fungus called koji. A good source of protein and fibre, it can be used to make soup or season meat products.
5. Kombucha – Gaining popularity among the youngsters, this black or green tea drink is fermented by friendly colony of bacteria and yeast. However, the products that are found in the market are high in sugar and carbonated, with one serving of Kombucha containing up to 28g of added sugar (7 teaspoons). Tip: Best to drink it in its original form.
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and activity of gastrointestinal flora in ways beneficial to health. In short, we would say prebiotics are versed as “food” for the probiotics to survive. The cheapest sources for prebiotics are typically found in food high in fibre such as, wholegrain products, fruits and vegetables.
Prebiotics can nourish a diverse range of probiotics naturally found within the gut, helping to reduce inflammation and help in the role of mood regulation. Research on the gut and brain axis shows that improving gut health with the use of prebiotic and probiotics positively impacts the central nervous system; brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease; as well as mood and anxiety. Research is ongoing for prebiotics to find out their benefits when fermented by probiotics in our intestine.
1 billion CFU per day of probiotics are generally thought needed. However, there is still no concrete recommended daily intake for probiotics. A standard for yoghurt is approximately 100 million CFU per serving. Excessive consumption of probiotics (e.g. supplement) may have side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea and bloating. It is difficult to know how much probiotics you ingest from food as population of probiotics decreases over time. The supply chain condition of fermented goods is important as it will determine the loss or maintenance of probiotics surviving rate. Some beneficial probiotics strains may have perished when it reaches your household fridge. If the probiotics are still alive, can they survive the harsh acidic condition in our stomach before they reach the intestine?
Thus, all in all, the general guideline is to incorporate a variety of fermented foods into your daily diet.