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Why “Good” Bacteria In Pre And Probiotics Are Vital For Your Gut Health

Prebiotics are complex carbs which feed beneficial microorganisms and boost their growth in your gut. Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms that restore/add healthy gut flora. They support your immune system, control inflammation, improve digestion, and produce vitamins. Probiotics can reduce risk of diarrhea, relieve constipation and IBS symptoms, fight intestinal infections and act as a dairy substitute for people suffering from lactose intolerance.

prebiotics buttermilk
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The pathway to better health is through your stomach. About 70% of our immune cells are located in our gut, which contains trillions of bacteria and microbes. We may tend to think of harmful germs when we hear the word bacteria. But, some microorganisms can actually be beneficial for our health.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are food components that can’t be digested which feed microorganisms present in your gut. Therefore, they stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms. They’re essentially complex carbohydrates. For instance, resistant starches, pectin, and inulin.[1][Probiotics](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics “Probiotics”). Cleveland Clinic. [2][Probiotics: What You Need To Know](https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know “Probiotics: What You Need To Know”).National Institutes of Health.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms which offer health benefits when you consume them or use them topically. They restore gut flora. They are available in certain fermented foods, beauty products, and dietary supplements. Typically, bacteria are used as probiotics though certain yeasts may also be used.

The most common probiotics are:

  • Lactobacillus (bacteria)
  • Bifidobacterium (bacteria)
  • Saccharomyces boulardii (yeast)[3][Probiotics](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics “Probiotics”). Cleveland Clinic.

Ayurvedic Concept Of Probiotics

Ayurvedic texts do not mention ‘probiotics’ or the use of beneficial microorganisms. But this ancient science certainly recognized the health benefits offered by fermented foods, particularly fermented dairy products. Ayurveda describes a biological force called “agni” which is responsible for metabolism and digestion. Fermented dairy products are thought to balance agni.[4]Kukkupuni, Subrahmanya Kumar, Aparna Shashikumar, and Padma Venkatasubramanian. “Fermented milk products: probiotics of ayurveda.” Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals 4, no. 1 … Continue reading

One of the most significant probiotic products used in Ayurveda is buttermilk (takra). It is prepared by churning curd with water and is thought to have the capacity to balance all three doshas (tridoshshamak). Therefore, it can be useful for people of different prakrutis (constitution). It has ushna veerya (hot potency) properties, meaning it is catabolic – creates kinetic energy – and increases heat in the body, especially when consumed in winters. It acts as a digestive aid and is considered to be beneficial in diseases linked to an imbalance in agni. It is also considered to be useful in conditions such as “udara” (asities – a condition where fluid accumulates in the abdomen), “arsha” (piles) and Grahini (irritable bowel syndrome).[5]Nirgude, Rajendra, Sandeep V. Binorkar, Gajanan R. Parlikar, Milind C. Kirte, and Deepak P. Savant. “Therapeutic and nutritional values of takra (buttermilk).” International Research … Continue reading

Benefits Of Probiotics For Gut Health

Probiotics are thought to have many health benefits. They can help:

  • Fend off bad bacteria
  • Support your immune system
  • Control inflammation
  • Improve digestion (by acting on gut flora)
  • Produce vitamins[6][Probiotics](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics “Probiotics”). Cleveland Clinic.

It’s important to remember that all probiotics do not have the same effects and that different microorganisms can offer different benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at how probiotics can help keep your digestive system healthy. They’ve been found to help with:

1. Probiotics Reduce The Risk Of Diarrhea

It is estimated that around 1 out 5 people who use antibiotics develop diarrhea. In most cases, this is mild and clears up on its own a few days after you stop taking the antibiotic. In some cases, a more serious condition associated with infection by a bacteria known as Clostridioides difficile may develop. But studies show that giving probiotics along with antibiotics can lower the risk of diarrhea and even Clostridioides difficile diarrhea.[7][Antibiotic-associated diarrhea](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antibiotic-associated-diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352231 “Antibiotic-associated diarrhea”). Mayo Clinic. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Enterococcus faecium SF68 have been found to help with antibiotic associated diarrhea.[8]Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.

2. Probiotics Can Prevent Constipation

Constipation is a very common condition that can affect anyone. Simple measures like having a fiber rich diet, being active, having sufficient fluids, avoiding alcohol can help prevent and treat constipation.[9][Constipation](https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/ “Constipation”).NHS,UK. Having probiotics can help too. Two kinds of bacteria – Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum – have been found to be useful in tackling constipation.[10][Probiotics: What You Need To Know](https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know “Probiotics: What You Need To Know”).National Institutes of Health.

3. Probiotics Help Deal With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe disorders characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. People with this condition may experience a range of diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. Your doctor may recommend medications, and in some cases even surgery to treat this condition. The most common kinds of inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Studies have found that probiotics can be helpful in dealing with IBD. Three probiotics – VSL#3, E. coli Nissle 1917 and S. boulardii – have been found to be particularly useful. VSL#3 is a combination of 4 strains of lactobacilli (L. casei, L. plantarum, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus), 3 strains of bifidobacteria (B. longum, B. infantis, B. breve) and one strain of S. thermophilus.[11]Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.

4. Probiotics Help Relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long term condition which affects your large intestine. People with this condition may experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and constipation.[12][Irritable Bowel Syndrome](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016 “Irritable Bowel Syndrome]. Mayo Clinic. While studies have found that probiotics may help with abdominal pain as well as other symptoms it’s not yet possible to say how effective they are or identify which microorganisms are most likely to be beneficial.[13][Probiotics: What You Need To Know](https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know “Probiotics: What You Need To Know”).National Institutes of Health.

5. Probiotics Fight Intestinal infections

A bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) can infect your stomach and cause peptic ulcers and gastritis. It can also increase your risk for certain stomach cancers.[14][Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171 “Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection”). Mayo Clinic. But many probiotic strains, particularly lactobacilli, have been found to act against this bacteria.[15]Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.

6. Probiotics Help In Cases Of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a digestive condition which is characterized by the inability to digest lactose, which is a kind of sugar present in dairy products and milk. People with this condition may experience symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea or nausea after consuming foods containing lactose.[16][Lactose intolerance](https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lactose-intolerance/ “Lactose intolerance”). NHS,UK. But some research indicates that yogurt bacteria which have high levels of lactase (an enzyme that breaks down lactose) can offer relief to those with this condition. It has also been found that replacing milk with yogurt in the diet can help people with lactose intolerance without depriving them of important nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins.[17]Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.

Prebiotic And Probiotic Foods To Add To Your Diet

You can add a range of delicious probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet to keep your gut healthy and happy.

Probiotic Foods

  • Yogurt and buttermilk: Yogurt is typically prepared by fermenting milk. And buttermilk is prepared by churning yogurt or curd with water.
  • Fermented pickles: All pickles are not probiotic. Go for those preserved with sea salt and water rather than those that use vinegar.
  • Kimchi: is a fermented vegetable (typically cabbage or radish) dish that’s traditional to Korea. It’s spicy and can be had with rice or noodles. You can also use it as a topping, add it to stews or even have its own.
  • Miso: is a paste prepared by fermenting soybeans. Sometimes, oats, wheat or rice may also be added to it. You can use it as a dipping sauce, toast spread and even mix it into marinades for meats or fish.
  • Tempeh: is prepared by forming fermented soybeans into dense firm cakes. It’s a favored meat substitute and works well in a veggie burger. But you can use them in a range of dishes from a stew to a kebab.
  • Kombucha: is a fermented tea drink. It’s thought to be safe to consume one to three cups of this drink a day (1 cup = 4 ounces). Having too much kombucha can cause nausea, headache, GI distress, and even a medical emergency known as ketoacidosis (a condition where your blood has too much acid). It’s not recommended for pregnant women or young children. Or for those with chronic diseases, compromised immune systems, or alcohol dependency.[18][What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?](https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-are-kombuchas-health-benefits-and-how-much-can-you-safely-drink/ “What Are … Continue reading
  • Kefir: is a fermented drink that’s typically prepared from milk. You can spice it up if you wish, maybe with a dash of vanilla or cinnamon. It’s also a great addition to a smoothie.
  • Sauerkraut: is a fermented cabbage dish. You can add it to salads, use it in sandwiches, or even combine it with a side dish.
  • Natto: Natto is another fermented soybean product like tempeh and miso. It is typically mixed with rice and served with breakfast.

Prebiotic Foods

It isn’t enough to consume a lot of probiotic foods, you also need to have an intestinal environment where they can thrive. Research shows that a diet that’s high in sugar, fat, and animal meat creates a harmful environment for beneficial bacteria.
So, what kinds of foods are good for beneficial bacteria?

  • Foods that are high in fiber.
  • Think whole grains, beans, veggies, and fruits.
  • Whole grain oats, whole grain wheat, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, and even seaweed are all great options.[19][Feed your gut](https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/feed-your-gut “Feed your gut”). Harvard Health Publishing.

Precautions While Consuming Probiotics

Even though buttermilk and other fermented milk products are considered to be beneficial in treating many disorders, Ayurveda cautions against their use in certain conditions.

  • Buttermilk is contraindicated for those with debilitating diseases like tuberculosis and those who suffer from intrinsic hemorrhage, emaciation, giddiness, fainting, burning sensation (during Pitta Prakopa) because of it’s ushna veerya property.
  • Excessive consumption of thick buttermilk during the summer is not advisable as it increases pitta dosha. Having too much buttermilk is thought to blunt your libido.
  • Curd should be consumed with caution during the beginning of the rainy season, autumn, late summer, and spring.
  • Ayurveda advises against consuming curd at night since it can increase kapha dosha and that can adversely affect your metabolism (agni). If one desires to eat curd at night, it can be taken along with ghee, sugar, green gram soup, honey or amla (Indian gooseberry).
  • Sweet curd is thought to increase kapha dosha while sour curd increases pitta dosha. Consuming sour curd for a long time is thought to result in skin diseases.
  • If you suffer from food allergies do account for them while choosing prebiotic or probiotic foods to add to your diet.
  • Probiotic foods and supplements are usually safe for healthy people. But some people need to be cautious about using probiotic supplements as they may risk infection. This includes people
    • With a weak immune system (for instance, people undergoing chemotherapy)
    • With a critical disease
    • Who’ve had surgery recently
  • Probiotic supplements can carry certain risks like the development of resistance to antibiotics, infection or harmful byproducts. However, this risk is low if your immune system hasn’t been weakened.
  • Probiotics may cause stomach upset, flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea for a few days when you first start taking them. Some people may also experience allergic reactions.
  • Do speak to your doctor before taking a probiotic supplement. They’ll be able to help you pick the best probiotic as well as advise you on dosage and frequency of use.[20][Probiotics](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics “Probiotics”). Cleveland Clinic.

References

References
1, 3, 6, 20 [Probiotics](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics “Probiotics”). Cleveland Clinic.
2, 10, 13 [Probiotics: What You Need To Know](https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know “Probiotics: What You Need To Know”).National Institutes of Health.
4 Kukkupuni, Subrahmanya Kumar, Aparna Shashikumar, and Padma Venkatasubramanian. “Fermented milk products: probiotics of ayurveda.” Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals 4, no. 1 (2015): 14.
5 Nirgude, Rajendra, Sandeep V. Binorkar, Gajanan R. Parlikar, Milind C. Kirte, and Deepak P. Savant. “Therapeutic and nutritional values of takra (buttermilk).” International Research Journal of Pharmacy 4, no. 2 (2013): 29-31.
7 [Antibiotic-associated diarrhea](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antibiotic-associated-diarrhea/symptoms-causes/syc-20352231 “Antibiotic-associated diarrhea”). Mayo Clinic.
8, 11 Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.
9 [Constipation](https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/ “Constipation”).NHS,UK.
12 [Irritable Bowel Syndrome](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016 “Irritable Bowel Syndrome]. Mayo Clinic.
14 [Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/symptoms-causes/syc-20356171 “Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection”). Mayo Clinic.
15, 17 Marteau, P., P. Seksik, and R. Jian. “Probiotics and intestinal health effects: a clinical perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 88, no. S1 (2002): s51-s57.
16 [Lactose intolerance](https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lactose-intolerance/ “Lactose intolerance”). NHS,UK.
18 [What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?](https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-are-kombuchas-health-benefits-and-how-much-can-you-safely-drink/ “What Are Kombucha’s Health Benefits (and How Much Can You Safely Drink)?”). Cleveland Clinic.
19 [Feed your gut](https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/feed-your-gut “Feed your gut”). Harvard Health Publishing.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information pertaining to your personal needs please see a qualified health practitioner.

About the Author

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Dr. Kalpana Dongare (KAA Expert)

With 13+ years of experience in Ayurvedic consultation & Allopathic treatment (ICU & General Hospital), Dr. Kalpana Dongare is adept in the treatment of infertility, PCOD, Joint disease, Skin diseases, etc with more than 95% patient follow up and more than 80% success rate. She is also an expert in all types of Panchkarma procedures.

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