Here’s why probiotic is a must for your gut health and immunity
Our renewed focus on immunity, initiated by a spiteful virus, has generated healthy discussion among not just professional medical practitioners and health-conscious souls but also among layman whose priority was never health, unfortunately. And for immunity, while we are all going gaga over vitamin C, gut health cannot be overlooked. In fact, gut health is of prime importance when it comes to building a strong defence against any disease. And we have Neerja Hajela, Head of Science and Regulatory Affairs, Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd, who throws more light on gut health and why probiotics are important for our system. Excerpts from an interview:
Why are probiotics in focus now?
Probiotics have taken centre stage because the pandemic has shown that the immune system plays a critical role in protecting us from COVID infection. The gold standard for building immunity is a well-balanced diet with all the nutrients and a healthy lifestyle. However, with about 70% of the immunity located in the intestine, which is the largest immune organ of the human body, scientists have begun to recognize that keeping the intestine healthy, is also very important for a strong immune system. Probiotics play a critical role in interacting with the immune system of the intestine (Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue or GALT) and augmenting both the innate and acquired immune responses. Therefore, in the time of the pandemic, when the need of the hour is to keep the immunity strong, probiotics have become very important.
Is there any natural source of probiotics?
Probiotic bacteria are isolated from natural sources like fermented foods, however, there are no natural sources of probiotics. Once isolated, the bacteria have to be scientifically tested for their probiotic property both in the laboratory and in animal and human models. It is also tested for its scientifically proven health benefits and then formulated into a product. The product may be in the form of fermented food that contains scientifically tested probiotic bacteria. Therefore, a probiotic product would have to be scientifically tested both for its probiotic property, ability to reach the target site (small intestine/ large intestine) live in large numbers to impart a scientifically validated health benefit.
What quantity of probiotic is required for an average man?
According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, a probiotic product must contain 108 Cell Forming Unit (CFU)/ recommended serving size/ day of the probiotic bacteria. Almost similar regulations are followed globally.
How important is it among kids?
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and help to build immunity. They also reduce the risk of diarrhoea, help improve constipation and prevent secondary infections. Most often children face the challenges of poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, stress and inadequate sleep, as a result, the probiotic bacteria decline in numbers. Consumption of a probiotic would help in replenishing the lost bacteria to improve digestion, boost immunity and reduce the risk of infections.
To improve gut health what else can be one?
The gut is one of the most important, yet the most neglected organ of the human body. Almost 2500 years back, the Greek physician, Hippocrates stated that bad digestion is the root of all evil. Therefore it is of paramount importance to ensure a healthy gut. A well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, exercising regularly, reducing stress and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics are some of the ways to improve gut health. Of course, including a probiotic or a prebiotic as a part of the diet would also be beneficial.