Food products should provide consumers with adequate nutritional value, ensure high quality and, above all, safety. The development of microflora in food products can affect the human body in two ways, support it or harm it. Bacteria harmful to humans can cause food poisoning, cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and transferring. The probiotic bacteria have a positive effect on the body. Currently, probiotic microorganisms arouse more and more interest in modern medicine due to the wider spectrum of applications. They also found a place in sports environments.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacterial cultures that, given a specific amount (WHO, FAO), have a positive effect on the health of the host, in particular, the microbiological balance. They demonstrate the ability to colonize the digestive tract, improve its functioning. They inhibit the growth of bacteria, antigens, toxins, thereby reducing potentially harmful effects on the body. They affect the innate and acquired immune system, additionally improve the functioning of the intestinal barrier by the local immune response. The mucous membrane lining the digestive tract is the first line of defense against pathogen invasion. The key element of the immune response is the ability to differentiate between pathogenic bacteria (bad bacteria) and non-pathogenic bacteria (good).
Where can we find probiotics?
Probiotic bacteria are found in fermented dairy products, sourdough products, vegetable silages, sauerkraut, and pickled cucumbers. They give the products a specific acidic smell and taste, they protect them against the development of harmful microorganisms. They are also available in the form of pharmaceutical preparations in the form of capsules or sachets. The two main commercial species are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. The shelf life of most probiotic preparations is 3-6 weeks when stored at low temperatures. Storage of dried (lyophilized) supplements may be up to 12 months, however, the level of bacteria during storage may be reduced.
How do probiotics support the immune system?
Probiotic supplements for physically active people can help the immune system, affect the maintenance of health and improve immunity. Support for probiotic supplements should be considered in people who suffer from recurrent or persistent colds of the upper respiratory tract, frequent pains of the throat (URTI). URTI includes colds, tracheitis, laryngitis, as well as symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and headaches. The use of probiotics, in this case, has a beneficial effect on shortening the disease period, and thus on limiting days without training or work (King et al., 2014).
In a large study involving 465 active adults, it was shown that taking a probiotic supplement for five months reduced the risk of URTI. The study included a supplement containing the Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Strain. lactis Bl-04 (West et al., 2014). The latest review published in 2015 indicated that probiotics concerning placebo reduced the incidence of URTI by 47%, and the average duration of the disease was shorter by 2 days (Hao et al., 2015).
If we decide on a supplement supporting the immune system, it is worth reaching for the species Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. They have been associated with the activity of the immune response, including increased NK cell activity, neutrophil cell, monocytic capacity, cytokine production, and increasing the amount of antibodies.
Effect of probiotics on the digestive system
Other potential benefits include the effect of probiotics on the reduction of gastrointestinal symptoms. Food disorders (GI) during the activity affect 30-50% of athletes. Applies to athletes practicing long-distance training, including cycling, triathlon, marathon. The main symptoms of GI are loss of appetite, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, reflux, abdominal cramps, overflows, bouncing, stinging acute pain, bloating. They can affect the result and contribute to the early end of the performance. The reasons for the occurrence of GI are not fully explained.
It is suggested that the redistribution of blood flow, or blood flip from viscera to active tissues (muscles), takes place during exercise high intensity. This results in increased permeability of the mucous membrane and contributes to the formation of GI. Supplementation with probiotics in combination with nutritional strategies supports active people with gastrointestinal discomfort during activity.
Practical advice on the use of probiotic supplements
– Most of the studies carried out suggest the effectiveness of supplementation with probiotic in an amount of 10¹º. Some preparations available on the market in 2015 contain larger amounts of probiotic bacteria, 25-50 billion bacteria in a dose. Research conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport has shown that most athletes safely tolerate a dose of 35-50 billion bacteria of commercial products. Lower doses can benefit individuals.
– When selecting a probiotic, reach for a specific one containing Lactobacillus and / or Bifidobacteria. Probiotics should be taken with food, the morning is the perfect time of day. Take a dose of probiotic for breakfast or just before a meal.
– Pay attention to the expiry date of the supplement and the place of its storage.
– The positive effect of supplementation is observed after consuming probiotics for several weeks. In the first weeks of supplementation, a gradual change in the intestinal microflora may cause some people to have gastrointestinal symptoms. Delicate flatulence, overflow, discomfort may occur.