Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in your body, and they provide you with many positive benefits to your health.
Although bacteria can, and often do, cause diseases, probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help keep your gut healthy.
They are most prevalent in your gut, and thus, form the bulk of your gut microbiome.
Several studies have also shown various other benefits associated with probiotics. Probiotics can potentially help with allergies (e.g. skin conditions such as eczema or food allergies caused by lactose intolerance), prevent urinary tract infections, prevent common colds and influenza (as probiotics will boost your overall immunity), and even maintain oral health (e.g. beneficial effects were observed on people with root caries).
Keeping a proper balance between the good and bad bacteria of your gut microbiome is important, and the way to achieve it is by ensuring that your ratio of beneficial-to-bad bacteria in your gut is kept in equilibrium.
Avoiding imbalance between good and bad bacteria, i.e dysbiosis, is important to prevent ill-effects on health.
In order to do this, you need to ensure that you consume sufficient levels of prebiotics and probiotics daily.
Probiotic-rich foods typically come from fermented foods such as fermented milk products (e.g. cheese, yoghurt, cultured milk drinks), fermented soy products (e.g. tempeh, bean curd, miso, natto), and fermented vegetables (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut, acar).
Prebiotics are “food” for the bacteria in your digestive system.
Think of them as food for the good bacteria – just like you, they need to be nourished in order to flourish.
Prebiotics can be found in high-fibre foods such as onions, garlic, banana, shallots, leeks, asparagus and whole grains.
While not all high-fibre foods are prebiotics, do not neglect them as they help bulk up your stool and promote regular bowel movement.
One of the most common forms of probiotics come from the Lactobacillus family, which can be easily obtained from yoghurt and other fermented foods.
They have been found to help with both preventing and treating diarrhoea, and there is also evidence that they help people who are not able to digest lactose.
Another common probiotic family is Bifidobacterium, which can also be found in several dairy products.
Studies have shown that it can potentially ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and several other digestive conditions.
Ensuring you eat sufficient prebiotics and probiotics is just one factor in the equation to maintaining a balanced and healthy gut microbiome.
In order to ensure good digestive health, you should also maintain a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet, which are the very basics of good digestive health.
The key here is not to completely cut off your favourite food or drink from your diet, rather, to consume it in moderation.
For instance, everyone loves their nasi lemak, but you would not be doing your body (or health) any favours by eating it every meal.
The same is true for things that are good for you – take fibre for instance, an excessive intake of fibre may cause bloating or constipation, so be sure you stick to the experts’ recommendations and not eat too much of it, thinking that more is better.
Do not neglect your sleep and exercise. Adequate sleep is very important, especially for growing children.
When it comes to exercise, the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines recommends at least one hour of accumulated moderate-intensity activities daily, which can include activities such as playing outside (e.g. physical games that involve running and/or jumping), or you can encourage your child to go cycling or swimming. Other alternatives include sports such as futsal, football, badminton, or even jazzercise.
So what are you waiting for, get yourself and your gut microbiome on the right track to a healthier you today.
Assoc Prof Dr Raja Affendi Raja Ali is a consultant physician and gastroenterologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.