Normally bacteria are considered harmful; but probiotic are good ones responsible for a variety of health benefits. Probiotics and probiotic foods have been used both as therapeutic and preventive supplements for many ailments including GI disturbances and cancers.
The two most recognised ones are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. The probiotic bacteria found in yogurt belong to the streptococcus and the lactobacillus strains.
Those food ingredients that can promote the growth of probiotics are referred to as "prebiotics". These are not digested by the intestinal tract but stimulate the activity and growth of selective beneficial bacteria in the colon. Cereals like wheat, pulses including soya, onion, garlic, leek, banana and even tomatoes are prebiotics.
A food that is both prebiotic and probiotic is called "synbiotic". This combination can have a beneficial effect on the host by increasing the survival of the probiotics in the intestinal tract.
India probably has the most diverse variety of fermented foods — Idli, Dosa, Dhokla, Khaman, Batura, Kulcha and the traditional dahi. The commonest probiotic foods are fermented dairy products such as yogurt and buttermilk. Sauerkraut or pickled cabbage is an example of a fermented food widely consumed in the West.
Our digestive system contains many millions of bacteria. In a normal intestine there are some 500 different species. They are important for many health functions including those concerned with the digestive system and immunity.
(Useful for UPSC General Studies, APPSC Group 1 Group 2 , Mains Material, Paper 1, Paper 4 Section 1 Section 2 Section 3, ROLE AND IMPACT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDIA, GENERAL AWARENESS WITH THE MODERN TRENDS IN LIFE SCIENCES, DEVELOPMENT & ENVIRONMENT PROBLEMS)