The World Health Organization defines probiotics as live microorganisms that, when administered, confer a health benefit to the host.
Probiotics are live bacteria that can benefit a person's health. They can be naturally present in the human digestive system and in some foods and supplements.
Probiotics can benefit the body in different ways, such as:
- Boost the health of the gut microbiome
- Restore the balance of the microbiome after an illness
- Support the immune system
As each person consumes different foods and undergoes different systems, the balance of their microbiome is affected by common lifestyle factors such as stress, repetitive antibiotic use, diet, etc.
To balance these effects, consumers turn to the consumption of probiotics.
There are many times when you do not need to take probiotic supplements to maintain good health. Good bacteria is just a natural part of your body and eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps keep the number of good bacteria at the right levels.
Foods that contain natural probiotics include yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, soft cheese, soy-based products, miso, tempeh, and some soy beverages.
This is why the consumption of probiotic supplements should not be understood as a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet. According to International Probiotics Association, there are currently more than 53 million probiotic consumers globally, and the market is estimated to grow by 23% by 2024.
People often consume probiotics to help with digestive disorders, bloating, and reduced resistance to infections that result from poor diet and dysfunctional systems. As a result of these issues, many people take probiotics to restore balance.
Importance in the market
The pandemic has changed people's eating and consumption habits. Everyday users have become more aware of the food they have been eating.
It has been observed that these new routines have increased the demand for immune-boosting products, which has positively impacted the probiotics market.
In North America, one in four US consumers reports digestive and intestinal health problems, which has become a top health concern. Because of this, the market for probiotic products is growing very rapidly as consumers pay more attention to health and wellness.
This shows that unhealthy eating habits, increasingly sedentary, and busy lives are the main causes of consumption related to digestive probiotics in the country.
Aspects to keep in mind
In terms of treating gut health conditions, researchers aren't sure how effective probiotic supplements are. The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) in the US determined that for most digestive conditions there is insufficient research evidence to support the use of probiotics.
It's important to note that, unlike drugs, dietary supplements do not need FDA approval. This means that manufacturers can sell supplements purely based on "claims" about safety and efficacy that often do not exist.
In Europe, stricter regulations make it difficult to market probiotic products. This is because the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has banned the use of the word "probiotics" on any product. Despite this, consumer demand and general interest in probiotics for digestive health remain strong.
Probiotics are generally taken as supplements, because of the high doses and strains a single probiotic can contain. On occasion, probiotic-enhanced products are successful in moderating intestinal conditions to a great extent.
How to choose the right probiotic
Colony-forming units (CFUs) are used to measure probiotics. The number of viable bacteria per dose is represented by these units. For probiotics to survive digestion and exert positive effects in the body, they must contain at least 10 6 (1 million) viable CFUs per gram.
It is important to keep in mind some aspects before purchasing a quality probiotic supplement beneficial to the health of consumers.
Some of the following:
- Verification: The product has been examined to ensure that it meets the required medical standards.
- Effective dose: The supplements contain at least 10 6 (1 million) CFU per gram.
- Ingredients: They are of high quality and free of artificial additives or fillers.
- Personal Needs: To meet needs and preferences for either a specific probiotic strain or diets with food restrictions.
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Reid G, Gadir AA, Dhir R. Probiotics: Reiterating What They Are and What They Are Not. Front Microbiol. 2019 Mar 12;10:424. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00424. PMID: 30930863; PMCID: PMC6425910.