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All You Need To Know About: Probiotics

30 July 2019 by Food & Hotel Asia

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Health and wellness has become a significant trend these past years. With consumers being more aware of their own dietary needs as well as the nutritional content of food, the demand for “functional food” has increased. Besides making a switch to healthier substitutes like gluten-free products or plant-based proteins, people are also focusing on nutrition at a macro and micro level, and these days, there’s been a lot of focus on probiotics

What are probiotics?   

Probiotics have been around for a long time, making appearances mainly in yoghurts and cultured milk products. These days, drinks like Kefir and Kombucha are popular beverages that people seek out to improve gut health. While yoghurt is made from the fermentation of bacteria in milk, kefir is a combination of bacteria and yeast fermentation, which produces “kefir grains”. Milk is then mixed with kefir grains and stored at a warm temperature and left to culture. The end product is a milky drink with a tart flavour with a slight carbonated fizz – rich in probiotics. Similarly, kombucha is made from the fermentation of bacteria and yeast in sweetened green or black tea. Like kefir, it is packed full of probiotics too. 

The science of probiotics 

By now, you have probably guessed that probiotics are actually bacteria that are classified as “good bacteria”. These bacteria, known scientifically as microbiota, are similar to the ones in our gut, and thus are known to boost digestion, aid gut health and supports the immune system. Different types of “good bacteria” such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are said to help with diarrhoea and easing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) respectively. Research has also shown that they’re useful in helping people with eczema, obesity and preventing allergies and cold. 

With all the benefits, one might question if probiotics are all that good. There are possible side effects such as experiencing gas or bloating, since changes in the gut microbiota can result in bacteria producing more gas than usual. Hence, an optimal dosage should be taken by reading the recommended servings on the labels. Another thing to watch out now that more companies are producing probiotic-rich items is that it is important to get them from reputable brands. This is because these live bacteria can easily be contaminated as they are considerably reactive. For example, you should never brew kombucha in a ceramic jar as the acids in the fermentation process can easily react with the glaze to produce lead that is highly toxic. There have actually been cases of uncontrolled production have led to death in the past. In the case of kombucha especially, where its symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) can be reused to kick-start a new colony in new teas. So before you buy into the hype of probiotics, do take a look at how the brand or company had it produced, and you just might save yourself from a tummy ache.