People often suffer from digestive disorders like stomach pain, gas, bloating, constipation, ulcers, reflux, gallstones, colitis and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Most stomach problems begin with imbalance or disturbance in the gut flora (the bacteria living in our small and large intestine). Excessive stress, drinking chlorinated water, increased intake of sweets, junk and antibiotics disrupt the gut flora, thus leading to stomach disorders. Such disorders can be treated, and probiotics is the best solution for it.
These are friendly bacteria that live in our intestines and have a beneficial effect on our health. These bacteria help in the proper digestion of food, reduce cholesterol levels, absorb nutrients and also improve the immune system. Probiotics are considered as ‘good’ bacteria. If too much bad bacteria enters the body through wrong food or indiscriminate use of antibiotics, the balance tips and the entire body is affected. In fact, it is said that our immune system resides in the gut. So if your gut health is good, not only is it easier for your body to fight diseases, but it also keeps you in better shape.
Benefits of probiotics
Probiotics can also be used for some urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. Studies have also shown beneficial effects of probiotics on cancers like colorectal cancer and breast cancer. A good bacterial balance can also reduce the risk of allergies. Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria strains both have shown to reduce allergies in individuals.
Foods containing probiotics
Most of the commercial curds available in the super markets have popularised probiotics. They are also present in the homemade curd (dahi) in plenty. Though dairy foods and beverages like dahi and buttermilk are the best sources of probiotics, the Indian diet has many other sources of probiotics. Fermented foods like idlis, dosas, dhoklas and uttapams are also rich in probiotics. Other foods like fermented cabbage pickle, ‘kimchi’ which is a fermented Korean dish made from various vegetables, tofu and soya are also rich in probiotics. These foods help to strengthen your child’s bones and teeth, and improve calcium absorption.
Probiotics are also available in a supplemental form (in a capsule). It is important to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria from time to time and especially after or along with a course of antibiotics.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.