Probiotics - how healthy are probiotic foods?

Microorganisms that protect the intestine, strengthen the immune system and protect against cancer - for several years it is known that these health-promoting germs actually exist: in our gut. They can also be fed through the diet, especially in yoghurt they are frolicking. But does advertising keep what it promises?

Probiotics for the intestinal flora

The gut is the largest immune system in the human body - anyone who claimed that decades ago was mildly ridiculed at best. But now this knowledge is established in medicine. Numerous studies have shown that diseases in which our immune system is involved or goes mad often find their way into the gut or - conversely - can improve their clinical picture by supporting the bacterial flora.

What are probiotics?

At this point probiotics begin: These microorganisms are a natural component of our healthy intestinal flora. In addition, they can enter the intestine in the form of food or dietary supplements, settle there and support the existing intestinal flora - and in this way stimulate, train and strengthen our immune system. Lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) and bifidobacteria have proved to be particularly helpful - their preventive and healing effects have been proven in the meantime, but with limitations:

  • Not all bacterial strains have corresponding effects; the effects demonstrated in the studies apply only to the tested probiotic (which does not mean that they are not present in others)
  • When fed through food, only a small portion of the beneficial microorganisms reach the intestine - the others are destroyed by gastric and bile acids.
  • In the case of food, there is also the danger that improper storage or transport routes mean that there is no longer sufficient amount of bacteria - a disadvantage that dietary supplements from the pharmacy (eg in the form of capsules) do not have.

Probiotics are contained in lactated fermented foods - and not just since there are yoghurt drinks in small bottles: in sour milk, kefir and yoghurt, sauerkraut, beetroot and salt cucumbers. Since time immemorial, these bacteria have been helping to conserve food, because the strong production of acid means that other harmful organisms have no chance.

Effects of probiotics

Under the keyword "probiotic", which translates as "for life", the grocery retailers' shelves are now full of different products, almost all more expensive than conventional products, with a market share of 15 percent. Not every consumer immediately understands the importance of Lactobacillus casei Actimel or Lactobacillus casei Golding and Gorbach (LGG). These - not genetically modified - lactic acid bacteria have proven to be quite resistant to gastric and bile acid. There are now numerous studies on the effects of probiotics: [1-9]

  • In fact, certain probiotics such as dry yeast (Saccharomyces boulardii) and the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (eg LGG or Lactobacillus acidophilus) can lessen the duration and severity of gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea. They can even be used as a preventive measure against travelers' diarrhea (start taking them 5 days before the journey starts).
  • Other bacteria promote digestion and reduce the number of putrefactive bacteria in the colon; in lactose intolerance they improve the digestion of lactose.
  • In infants, the consumption of lactic acid bacteria with probiotic properties protects against certain intestinal infections and helps normalize bacterial overgrowth after antibiotic therapy.
  • Lactic acid bacteria (eg LGG®, Symbiolact comp.®) taken by the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding prevent allergic reactions and especially neurodermatitis in children.
  • Probiotics appear to positively influence the course of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease) and urinary tract infections.
  • Probiotics may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by inhibiting cytotoxic enzymes. A Japanese study has shown this effect for the germ Lactobacillus casei Shirota.
  • Possible drawback: It could be that some diseases can also worsen - may be affected some autoimmune diseases, such. B. Bechterew's disease.

It is crucial that probiotic products are consumed frequently, almost daily, and regularly. Otherwise, the bacteria can not colonize the intestinal mucosa. Conventional, non-heat-treated yoghurts and dairy products containing live lactobacilli or bifidus bacteria strains are therefore beneficial to health. The DGE therefore recommends daily consumption of low-fat soured milk products.

(1) Htwe K et al .: Effect of Saccharomyces boulardii in the treatment of acute watery diarrhea in Myanmar children: a randomized controlled study. At J Trop Med Hyg. 2008; 78 (2): 214-216
(2) Hickson M et al .: Use of probiotic Lactobacillus preparation to prevent diarrhea associated with antibiotics: randomized double blind placebo controlled trial. BMJ. 2007; 335 (7610): 80
(3) Szajewska H et al .: Meta-analysis: Saccharomyces boulardii for treating acute diarrhea in children. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007; 25 (3): 257-264
(4) Szajewska H et al .: Meta-analysis: Lactobacillus GG for treating acute diarrhea in children. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007; 25 (8): 871-881
(5) D'Souza AL et al. Probiotics in prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2002; 324: 1361-1364
(6) Blümer N et al .: Perinatal maternal supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) reduces allergic inflammatory response in the offspring. Pneumology. 2005; 59
(7) Rautava S: Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2002; 109: 119-121
(8) Passeron T et al .: Prebiotics and synbiotics: two promising approaches for the treatment of atopic dermatitis in children above two years. Allergy 2006; 61: 431-437
(9) Lee SJ et al .: Probiotics prophylaxis in children with persistent primary vesicoureteral reflux. Pediatr Nephrol. 2007; 22 (9): 1315-1320

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