Professional Journals
Probiotic is Beneficial to the "Second Brain" of Human Body
Date: 02/11/2021
Are Probiotics Really Good for Health?
(By Dr. Chai Lay Ching, Wellous Food and Microbiology Adbisor)

Probiotics is a huge buzzword in today’s modern society, it is highly beneficial to the "second brain" of the human body, which is our gut. Consumers are spoiled with a huge variety of probiotics products in the market, from supplements such as probiotics drinks, probiotics pill, to probiotics food such as milk and ice cream with probiotics, kombucha, yogurts, and to skin care products with probiotics. But what are probiotics and are probiotics really good for our health? Is it scientifically proven?

What are probiotics? 

Probiotics are live microbes (organisms that are so tiny that one can only observe them under a microscope) that are needed by our body to promote health. In plain language, probiotics are friendly microbes or “good” microbes to humans. I say “good” microbes here because they bring a lot of health benefits to us such as help in digestion, stimulate the immune system and to protect us against the “bad” microbes that will make us sick.

There are many various genera of probiotics. The commonly used probiotic bacteria are:

·         Lactobacillus : This is the most common probiotics bacteria in supplements, yogurt, etc. Lactobacillus is commonly found in our guts and a number of body sites, and plays an important role in maintaining our well-being. The common species of Lactobacillus include Lactobacillus gallinarum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus casei.

·         Bifidobacteria : Just like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria is also a common probiotics bacteria in supplement and food. Bifidobacteria normally live in our intestines and stomach. They help our body perform important functions such as digestion and competing with “bad” bacteria for food so as to stave them to death. Examples of Bifidobacteria are Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium breve.

·         Streptococcus : It is a type of Lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Some of the species of Streptococcus may cause disease in humans, but the majority of the Streptococcus species are not harmful, but live naturally and peacefully in our mouth, skin, guts and upper respiratory tract. Streptococcus is used in the making of Swiss cheese.

Other types of probiotics bacteria include Enterococcus, Escherichia, Bacillus and also Saccharomyces (yeast).

Why do we need probiotics?

Many people are very afraid of microbes, or some refer microbes as germs. Have you met someone who is so obsessed with cleanliness and personal hygiene that they probably wash and sanitize their hands every now and then? If yes, you may notice that this someone would probably easily develop eczema or have some sort of skin infection. Why? This is because over cleaning would remove and kill the natural microflora on the skin surfaces that protect us from the attack of “bad” microbes in the environment.

Scientific study reveals that there are about as many microbial cells in the human body as there are human cells, which makes us half human and half microbes. These microbes reside on various body sites including the skin, gastrointestinal tract, uterus, lung, oral cavity, saliva, conjunctiva, biliary tract, mammary glands, and seminal fluid. Some microbes are commensal (co-exist without causing harm); while others are mutualistic (bring benefit to humans). Research has shown that gut microbiome (the different microbes live in our gut) plays essential functions such as help in food digestion and nutrient absorption, stimulate and train our immune systems, combat diseases like intestinal disorders, regulate bowel movement, improve gut-brain barrier that promote mental health and many more.

So, without a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, we will not be able to properly digest food that may lead to malnutrition, weaken immune systems and deteriorate health. Our gut microbiome develops since birth and stabilises at the age of 3 to 5 years old. Factors such as mode of delivery, diet, environment and genetics all play a role in shaping the gut microbiome. Once the gut microbiome is established, the composition of the gut microbiome is relatively stable. However, this balance can be disturbed due to disease, antibiotic treatment, change in lifestyle, and a long-term change in diet. Shifts in gut microbiome composition have been reported to increase the risk of disease. Therefore, replacing the lost microbes in our gut by consuming probiotics has been shown to bring many health effects.

Where can we obtain probiotics?