Diet & Nutrition

Power your palate with probiotics

There is a tendency to believe that germs are bad for us; they cause illness and weaken our bodies. However, scientific research is now exploring the possibility that not all germs are evil. Like people, there can be good bacteria as well as bad.

Welcome to the world of probiotics. Often termed as ‘gut friendly bacteria’, these are live cultures of microorganisms that are already widely prevalent in our stomachs. These highly concentrated cultures are then added to foods or taken as supplements to improve general health.

Probiotics are often recommended by doctors after a prolonged illness or whenever you take a session of antibiotics. Antibiotics, while helping you get better, flush out both the good and bad bacteria from your system, often causing diaorrhea and weakness; probiotics help restore the balance and are ‘pro’ or favourable to the growth of good microorganisms.

Natural sources

This good bacteria can be found naturally in many Indian foods, especially in the fermented variety. “The culture used in making curd, buttermilk, the dosa or idli batter, fermented beverages; all these are rich in probiotics,” says Meghna Rajpurohit, a Mumbai based nutritionist and diabetes educator.

Today, in addition to its natural incidence in many of our foods, probiotics are being cultivated and consciously added to foods like yoghurts. It is also packaged and available in a more concentrated form as powder to be taken as supplements to a healthy diet.

Slew of benefits

“In the past few decades, probiotics have generated lot of scientific scrutiny and today there is enough evidence supporting their role in prevention of colon cancer, in lowering cholesterol, soothing the stomach and improving immunity,” says Meghna.

In some cases, probiotics have been helpful for children too. “It has a beneficial role in controlling diaorrhea in children,” says Dr Parang Mehta, paediatrician and head of Mehta Childcare hospital in Surat.

“Some types of probiotics shorten the duration of diaorrhea and prevent hospitalization. Other types are believed to stimulate the immune system. Theoretically, this would make children better able to resist childhood infections, though more research would be required to establish this conclusively. Probiotics are of some use in the battle against allergies and allergic diseases, but are mostly relied upon as supplements, taken in addition to the first line of drugs,” he explains.

Prebiotics

As the awareness of probiotics and their importance in the role of generating good health increases, doctors are also prescribing ‘prebiotics’. Prebiotics are predominantly a type of dietary fibre that help probiotics or good bacteria to grow and thrive in the digestive tract.

“Onions, garlic, spinach, apples, banana, berries, beans, oats, (primarily most vegetables and other foods rich in soluble fibre) provide prebiotics,” says Meghna. If you cannot stomach the thought of ingesting live bacteria (even though it is beneficial and has no particular taste), then just increase your intake of foods that contain these prebiotics. In the long term, this is a natural way to ensure that probiotics will thrive in your system, giving you all of its potential health benefits.

As awareness increases, we are constantly striving to ward off disease and be as fit and healthy as we possibly can. In this quest for optimal wellbeing, probiotics play an important role. Consult your physician before you take a probiotic supplement, or do it the natural way—just raise your glass of buttermilk and toast to your good health!

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 10:12:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/diet-and-nutrition/power-your-palate-with-probiotics/article2347145.ece

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