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Probiotics for dairy and functional foods & beverages
Wednesday, 27 October, 2021, 16 : 00 PM [IST]
Adity Sharma
Significance of Probiotics
Different environmental toxins, weighty metals exist in soil, water, and air, recording toxic effects on humans, animals and plants. These toxic elements are widespread in the environment causing various disturbances in biological systems. Numerous strategies have been applied to alleviate heavy metals contamination. However, most of these strategies are expensive and unfriendly to our environment. That is where probiotics are helpful in detoxification. These are living cell bacteria providing help in food digestion and its utilisation. It also helps manufacture B-complex vitamins, vitamin-K, maintains the balance of pH in our gut, digests lactose and proteins, and increases minerals absorption.

Probiotic for Dairy
Yogurt is a good source of probiotic but consumption of dairy is a controversial topic. Dr Willett, the head of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, says dairy products cause gut inflammations and hormonal issues, increase the body's level of insulin. He also stated that there is no evidence that dairy is good for the bones and prevents osteoporosis. Looking at the dairy substitutes, we have natural probiotic-rich foods like Miso, Tempeh, Sauerkraut, Kimche, Raw Pickles, anything Fermented (idli, dosa), Kombucha, sourdough bread, buttermilk, Rice kanji, carrot or beetroot kanji many more.

While discussing probiotics, we cannot undermine the importance of prebiotics. These are the non-digestible fibre compounds that pass undigested through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the growth of existing bacteria in the colon. Prebiotic-rich foods are onions, artichokes, garlic, bananas, apples, asparagus, legumes, peas, leeks, burdock roots, whole grains, soybean and apple cider vinegar.

However, is probiotic a new fad, considering our ancestors never bothered about it. Why has it become so so important now? The answer lies in their clean diet. They used to eat raw pickles, drink buttermilk and kanji with their meals. Another most critical factor was that they hardly consumed antibiotics. They use to cure illness with natural remedies.

Probiotics for Functional Food

Japan was the first country to propose "Functional Food." Functional foods are minimally processed, whole foods and fortified enriched or enhanced foods. People consumed it to gain health and to recover from any ailment. However, it is better to have natural elements instead of packed ingredients. The sales targets constantly promote packaging. It does not provide sustainable health benefits. Instead of that, include raw and whole foods in the diet. We get digestive enzymes and good bacteria when we eat raw food. After cooking, it gets destroyed. One must include raw food items like fruits, carrots, cucumber, onion, nuts and seeds (soaked in water overnight). Considering our current lifestyle, we cannot avoid cooked foods, but we need to include some raw foods in our diet.

Probiotics for Functional Beverages
Health experts are concerned about the increased consumption and popularity of functional beverages. Most beverages like energy drinks, caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks, fortified fruit drinks have been sweetened—these beverages are associated with a higher level of obesity and heart disease. White sugar and processed foods wipe out all good bacteria from the gut, and such beverages promote dental cavities amongst frequent users.

The gut microbiome
The gut microbiome refers to the billions of live bacteria humans have in their gut. The gut contains approximately 35,000 different strains of bacteria. The majority are present in the large intestine, particularly in the colon. The gut refers to where food is digested, metabolised and absorbed to provide energy to the cells.

The state of gut health also regulates our mood, immune system, inability to lose weight, hair health, quality of the skin, and many more. Anything that affects gut health affects the brain too.

The gut microbiome is affected by various factors like mode of delivery (c-section or expected vaginal delivery),diet during infancy (breastfed infants gut microbiome depends on mother’s health), and the overall diet. Also, even a short period of stress may alter the gut microbiome.Antibiotics too kill good bacteria from our gut and deplete B-vitamins. Even commonly prescribed antibiotics can wipe out microbial diversity for up to a month. Of course, antibiotics are necessary during an emergency but do remember to give extra care to the gut during the antibiotic course.

The Western diet is associated with dysbiosis, which disrupts the gut bacterial profile when the "bad" bacteria outnumber the "good". A combination of probiotics and prebiotics as part of a whole foods diet can help achieve the right balance of gut bacteria to support health and reduce inflammation. The reason for most of the aliments is an imbalance of gut bacteria. We always suppress the symptoms by taking immediate pills. Instead, we should focus on the root cause and fix our gut. We should not be dependent on probiotics in our daily routine diet. Instead, we should become more mindful of our eating habits and lifestyle. Diet has the most powerful influence on gut microbial communities to keep oneself healthy.

(The author is naturopathy and integrative nutrition health coach. She can be reached at
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