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Probiotics: The Latest Buzzword in Nutrition

By: Pat Lam
Posted: January 7, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Prebiotics are ingestible ingredients found naturally in foods or synthesized from sucrose. Think of them as food for friendly bacteria because they stimulate the growth of a limited number of healthy bacterial species in the colon. For example, inulin and oligofructose are prebiotics found in the roots of the chicory plant that increase the density and metabolism of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. In other words, prebiotics exasperate the effects of probiotics by feeding the probiotics in order to help them proliferate in the intestinal tract. In this way, a healthy ratio of microbial imbalance will be maintained.

Probiotics are being referred to as the latest anti-aging food and recently, in the health food industry, well-known stores are allocating a large segment of their shelves to display probiotics. Also, some food manufacturers are adding prebiotics and probiotics to natural foods, such as milk and eggs, in order to meet the demands of educated consumers seeking to optimize good health. When choosing the best probiotics, check the nutrition label to ensure that there are one billion bacteria per serving from one of the recommended active strains, including lactobacillus acidophilus.

Benefits of probiotics

The gut microflora plays an important role in the fermentation of fiber since this leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids. These help to increase blood flow to the colon and reduce the pH of food residue in the colon, thus preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. This strengthens the immune system, reducing the production of toxic poisons in the body. It is important to note that different strains of probiotic bacteria have different effects. Each probiotic strain is unique and affects different microflora independently. Some studies suggest that probiotics are effective in treating some forms of irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic digestive condition with no known cure. Other populations who benefit from probiotic supplementation are those with weak immune systems, such as babies, those with lactose intolerance and the elderly who tend to use high levels of antibiotics that eventually erode the protective lining of the intestinal mucosa.

Probiotics and the skin

The skin reflects the inner ecosystem of the body. If you are unwell from digestive disturbances, such as an upset stomach caused by food poisoning, your complexion may become sensitive, appear unhealthy, discolored, mottled and pasty. Conditions, such as sensitive and acneic skin, benefit from the consumption of foods with natural probiotics that will help the natural ecosystem within the body to be recovered, which is visible in skin health, as well. The addition of probiotics in your clients’ diets certainly is an anti-aging approach for preventive health and longevity. Several cosmetic companies are already planning to develop probiotic skin products in the near future.

Developing a broader knowledge of prebiotics and probiotics will prove to be greatly beneficial for those professionals involved in the wellness industry because the consumption of these functional foods should be a part of wellness and anti-aging programs. Keeping informed about the latest anti-aging strategies will help you help your clients who are interested in preventive health. On your next visit to your local health food store, check out the probiotics counter and try some to personally learn more about the latest buzzword in wellness therapy.