Pros and cons of probiotic food

Nutritionists say while probiotic foods are good for your body, consuming it in excess can cause equal harm

In recent times, curiosity around probiotics food has increased tremendously. Probiotic foods play an important role in supplementing good bacteria in the body. Probiotic means ‘for life’ and these foods help boost immunity.

Dr Usha Kiran Sisodia, a clinical nutritionist, said, “There are two types of bacteria, good and bad. Probiotics are good bacteria, which help in maintaining balance of intestine tract, whereas bad bacteria cause diseases and are harmful to the body. Probiotics bacteria fight bad bacteria and keep them away.”

Sisodia said it is important to include probiotics food in at least one meal in a day.

“Yogurt, buttermilk, milk, tofu, soy milk and fermented foods contain probiotic organisms,” said Sisodia.

Dr Nupur Krishnan, a clinical nutritionist, said probiotics play an important role in Indian food industry. Fermented foods are known to possess health benefits because they have been shown to enhance nutritional quality of food grains.

“Foods like idli, dosa, dhokla, wada and kadhi are some of the lactobacillus fermented cereals and legumes commonly consumed in India,” added Krishnan.

Probiotic foods help in better digestion, cure diarrhoea, absorb calcium and prevent allergies. Nowadays, probiotics pills are also available as a substitute to probiotics food. However, prolonged consumption of these pills can cause pneumonia, liver-related problems, endocarditic in those suffering from diabetes, immune compromised status or debilitation, said Krishnan.

“One should be careful in choosing probiotic-rich foods or pills which are commercially marketed. Some of these are very high in sugar and contain empty calories, which are usually devoid of vitamins and minerals,” Krishnan said.

She added that most of the times, health benefits mentioned on commercial products are exaggerated without any backing of research-based evidence. “So, one should be careful before buying such products,” she added.

“Pregnant women should use probiotic nutritional supplements only after consulting a doctor. Infants have low digestive power, so they should not be given probiotics in excess, as it may cause vomiting and diarrhoea,” said Krishnan.

Shilpa Joshi, a nutritionist and dietician, said before taking probiotics one should consume prebiotic food.

Prebiotics are fibres which work together with probiotics to allow specific changes to take place in the stomach, both in composition and activity. They play a fundamental role in preserving health by maintaining balance and diversity of intestinal bacteria, especially increasing good bacteria,” said Joshi.

In a recent study, it has been observed that probiotics are also helpful in maintaining weight.

“There are many different microorganisms in the gut, which are mostly bacteria. These gut bacteria can have powerful effects on body weight. Good gut is a sign of good health,” said Joshi.