Probiotics: what do we actually know about them?

Probiotics: what do we actually know about them?

The appearance of the coronavirus pandemic has caused people to be more concerned with increasing their immunity by improving their diet, consuming probiotics, and exercising. Lately, probiotics are in demand more and more, but what do we actually know about them?

What are probiotics?

Medicine Net explains that the word probiotic is derived from two Greek words pro, meaning promoting and biotic, meaning life. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), located in the United States, probiotics are microorganisms that are similar to the good bacteria in our intestines. Probiotic food is food that consists of a number of live bacteria which have health benefits. Some probiotic food that is already generally known include milk products that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) like yogurt, Yakult, acidophilus milk, etc.

The probiotics used in food are generally lactic acid bacteria (LAB), especially those in the genus Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium which are part of the normal flora of the human digestive tract. Probiotics can produce bacteriocin, lactic acid, acetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, lactoperoxidase, liposaccharides, and other antimicrobials. Probiotics also produce key nutrients for the host’s immune system and metabolism, such as vitamin B, pyridoxine, niacin, folic acid, cobalamin, biotin and antioxidants like vitamin K.    

What is the role of probiotics in human health?

Probiotics support human health through three main protective functions, namely the ability of probiotics to inhibit pathogens in the digestive tract, promote immune system function, and produce metabolites. Probiotics are effective in helping with the following: treating diarrhea, stimulating the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels, preventing colon and bowel cancer, preventing atopic dermatitis in children, treating irritable bowel syndrome, and preventing and treating infection.

What are the side effects of probiotics?

According to farmasetika.com, people who are relatively healthy experience minimal side effects from consuming food containing probiotics. However, people who are critically ill with a weak immune system or those who recently had an operation may experience severe side effects including infection.   

Indonesian version of this article is available here: Probiotik Dalam Perspektif Kesehatan

Reference:

Yuniastuti, Ari. 2014. Buku Monograf Probiotik Dalam Perpektif Kesehatan. Semarang: UNNES Press.

Article by: Salma Auliya Fatimah, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health, University of Darussalam Gontor

Translator: Trey Spadone

Reviewer: M. Taufiq Affandi

Image source: NIH

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