What are the best natural probiotics

Probiotics and prebiotics: good for the gut

Status: 02/01/2021 9:37 a.m.

Many pills can be saved if you eat a balanced diet rich in fiber - because an intact intestinal flora has a positive effect on health. What can we do for an intact microbiome?

by Britta Probol and Stefanie Lambernd

Trillions of bacteria live in the human intestine, especially the large intestine. The microorganisms, which include probiotics and prebiotics, make up the natural intestinal flora, sometimes called the microbiome. A healthy microbiome is extremely useful for the body: the intestinal bacteria help with the utilization of food components, prevent pathogens from spreading in the intestine and contribute to the functioning of our immune system. In addition, the intestinal flora stimulates bowel movements and produces vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.

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Whether changes in the intestinal flora can cause diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis has not yet been fully clarified scientifically. There are studies that show that the intestinal flora of irritable bowel patients differs significantly from the microbiome of healthy people. However, it is unclear whether this change is the cause or consequence of the disease. What is clear, however, is that stress or the intake of antibiotics can unbalance the intestinal flora. And that a disturbed balance of intestinal bacteria - such as an incorrect colonization of the small intestine - can lead to massive health problems.

Probiotics: health-promoting microorganisms

In a nutshell

Probiotics are preparations that contain viable microorganisms, for example lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
Prebiotics on the other hand, there are non-digestible food components that promote the growth and activity of bacteria in the large intestine - such as fiber such as inulin and oligofructose.
Symbiotics are a combination of both.

A positive effect on the intestinal flora is mainly attributed to the so-called probiotics. "The probiotics are, so to speak, desirable inhabitants of our intestines," explains Nutrition Doc Jörn Klasen. "These bacteria - in some cases also yeasts - can help to strengthen the barrier function of the intestine and keep pathogens at bay." Some of them produce valuable substances - short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate or propionate, for example, which studies have shown, among other things, to help keep nerve cells healthy. The microorganisms occur naturally in lactic acid products such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk or sauerkraut. There are also probiotics in capsule and drop form that are used as medicines and are often available without a prescription.

The effect of probiotics depends on the clinical picture

Thousands of strains of different bacteria live in the human intestine. Many of them are very useful because they help with the utilization of food and in turn produce vitamins or healthy fatty acids.

The prerequisite for the health-promoting effect of probiotics is that the bacteria and yeasts used arrive where they are supposed to be. This means that they must be present in sufficient quantities in food or pharmaceuticals, they must survive the passage through the stomach and small intestine and assert themselves against the bacteria that predominate in the large intestine. In addition, the effect of the bacteria depends on the clinical picture and the bacterial strain used; it cannot be generalized. For example, there is a probiotic drug from the E. coli strain Nissle 1917, which is used for diarrhea in children and ulcerative colitis. In any case, probiotics should be consumed regularly - according to studies, daily and for weeks - so that they have a positive effect on the intestinal flora.

"For healthy people, a balanced diet with vegetables and whole grain products is usually enough to keep the microbiome in balance," says Nutrition Doc Matthias Riedl.

Prebiotics are found in many vegetables

Dietary fiber - from vegetables, for example - that arrives undigested in the large intestine forms the basis of nutrition for the beneficial microorganisms resident there.

In addition to probiotics, prebiotics also have a health-promoting effect on the intestine. Unlike probiotics, however, they are not microorganisms, but fiber that is not digested by the body. These include phytonutrients such as inulin and oligofructose. Some of the "good" bacteria in the large intestine rush to the prebiotics, utilize them preferentially and can thus multiply. "Prebiotic foods ensure that bifidobacteria in particular feel good in our intestines," says nutrition doctor Anne Fleck. "Disease-causing bacterial strains such as clostridia and certain types of E. coli then have a harder time spreading in the intestine." In addition, prebiotics help with constipation, diarrhea and constipation.

Many foods contain healthy fiber

Some food manufacturers add prebiotics to products such as baked goods, fruit juices and sausages to make them richer in fiber and thus "healthier". Nature actually provides us with enough: prebiotics are found in chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, salsify, artichokes and bananas, for example. According to studies, however, an amount of around five grams per day is necessary for prebiotics to work. This means for the menu: several servings of vegetables - for example as a salad, side dish, soup or juice.

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The Nutritional Docs | 02/01/2021 | 9:00 p.m.