Today's society places more and more emphasis on maintaining good health. As a result, many people are particularly interested in more natural ways to prevent or treat disease.
We now know that there is a close link between certain conditions and the intestinal microbiota. It plays a role in digestive, metabolic, immune, neurological functions and many more.
For this reason, you must have already heard about probiotics, these bacteria beneficial for the balance of the microbiota.
What are probiotics?
The intestinal microbiota is made up of many microorganisms, both good and bad bacteria. Each part of our body such as the intestines, skin, mouth or even the vagina have specific microbiota. The intestinal microbiota is the most important with several hundred billion microorganisms (twice more than all the cells that make up our body). Its health depends only on the balance between good and bad bacteria. When these microorganisms are in excess, they cause dysbiosis, an alteration of the symbiosis existing between us and our intestinal microbiota. It is characterized by an imbalance or low diversity of the microbiota, which can promote the development of certain health problems (repeated infections, poor digestion, allergies, etc.). Consumption of probiotics is a good boost to restore usual harmony.
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that form the intestinal, oral and vaginal flora. They are used more and more by the French because they are recognized as a new way of taking care of your body. They provide real benefits, particularly for the microbiota. In 2001, they were defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) as “live micro-organisms which, when ingested in sufficient quantities, exert positive effects on health, beyond nutritional effects. traditional”. Indeed, the presence of these probiotics in the mucous membranes helps maintain the balance of the intestinal flora by preventing and countering attacks by other harmful microorganisms.
Scientific studies have shown that healthy people have a more diverse microbiota than those suffering from diseases (intestinal disease, diabetes for example). Providing probiotics therefore helps promote this diversification. Another little plus is that they will occupy space in the microbiota, leaving no room for bad bacteria to develop.
Where to find them?
Probiotics are naturally present in our body but they are also found in our food. The foods that are richest in it are fermented milks and yogurts, sourdough breads, kefir, soy products, blue cheeses (like blue or Roquefort) and cheeses with a rind (like Camembert or brie), sauerkraut, pickled gherkins and other pickled vegetables.
There are many strains that can be strengthened depending on each person's needs or symptoms. They are available in the form of food supplements and are used with the aim of influencing the intestinal flora in a beneficial manner. We mainly use lactic bacteria, that is to say which ferment sugars into lactic acid, belonging to 4 different genera (Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, Streptococci, Lactococci) comprising hundreds of thousands of different strains. For each health problem there is a strain with specific properties.
The many roles of probiotics in the body
Taking antibiotics, a diet high in fat and low in fiber, a certain illness or even a deficiency in the immune system can promote an imbalance in the intestinal flora. However, we know that it will have an impact on digestion, the immune system, the skin or even, according to the latest discoveries, on the brain! 85% of immune cells are found in the intestine.
Depending on the health problems encountered, probiotics can play a role in protecting or rebalancing the microbiota. Their role is increasingly studied on the problems cited below.
Digestion and constipation
By colonizing the intestinal flora, probiotics help to facilitate good digestion of food and by extension to regulate intestinal transit. They allow the rebalancing of our intestinal flora and thus they improve and accelerate intestinal transit. Results from several studies show that strains of Lactobacillus casei , Bifidobacterium lactis , and Escherichia coli improve stool frequency and consistency in adults. Thanks to probiotics, it is possible to prevent and treat constipation.
Antibiotics are sometimes essential to treat a bacterial infection but can sometimes attack our microbiota and cause diarrhea. Probiotics help reduce excessive secretion of stools during attacks of acute diarrhea. Diarrhea leads to a reduction in the number of good bacteria in the intestinal microbiota and promotes the proliferation of different pathogenic germs. Probiotics help restore the intestinal flora disrupted by this imbalance. They thus make it possible to relieve these transit disorders as quickly as possible and to reduce the frequency of stools.
Irritable bowel syndrome
The effects of probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome are of great interest to researchers. Indeed, the latest results show that probiotics act on the intensity and frequency of symptoms of the disease (flatulence, abdominal pain, bloating, etc.) thanks to their regulatory action on intestinal transit. Thus, probiotics improve the quality of life of patients. The strains most used for intestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome are Lactobacillus Casei and Bifidobacterium Longum.
An insufficiently diversified intestinal microbiota can be the cause of certain pathologies. This is why probiotics have a role to play in the immune system. They help the microbiota to restore its balance and therefore prevent the proliferation of pathogens. They also help the immune system to differentiate between good and bad bacteria and thus help avoid certain infections. Finally, they can help the immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies.
Hormonal disorders, excessive hygiene, and taking medications can lead to imbalances and alter the protective biofilm of the vaginal flora. This promotes the multiplication of pathogenic germs and the occurrence and recurrence of mycoses, vaginosis and vaginitis.
The use of probiotics mainly composed of Lactobacillus strains will help restore the balance of the vaginal flora.
The skin is colonized by bacteria and if the wrong ones proliferate (poor hygiene, antibiotic treatments, aging), they can unbalance the skin microbiota and cause redness, irritation, dryness but also acne or eczema. Recently, studies have shown interesting preventive effects of probiotic strains on atopic eczema, particularly in children at risk.
Studies have shown that the composition of the microbiota of an overweight person will be poorer than that of a thinner person. Thus, balancing your intestinal flora would increase the breakdown of fat and stimulate the synthesis of satiety hormones. The Lactobacillus gasseri strain would have a positive effect on waist circumference and BMI and Bifidobacterium breve would reduce the feeling of hunger
The effectiveness of probiotics on certain neuronal diseases has also been the subject of research. They would help patients fight against daily anxiety, bipolar disorders and even depression and therefore allow them to improve their psychological health.
How to take them to optimize their effectiveness?
Probiotics in the form of food supplements can be taken in one-month courses and can be repeated several times during the year if necessary. It is recommended to take them in the morning, on an empty stomach to allow the good bacteria to pass through the digestive tract intact, avoiding the presence of digestive enzymes.
At the same time, you must have a diversified and balanced diet, which provides both probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics can be defined as foods that will stimulate the beneficial bacteria present in our intestine. These are the substances that nourish probiotics and promote their development. They are then capable of acting positively on our health.
Prebiotics are found in vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions, tomatoes, in barley and rye grains and in fermented dairy products.
It is possible to find probiotics associated with a prebiotic active ingredient in the same food supplement for a so-called “symbiotic” association.