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Misconceptions about lactic acid bacteria

  • โ‰ FAQ
Yogurt in a glass container is scooped out with a spoon.

As the standard of living has improved, the demand for various health functional foods has also increased. In particular, interest in lactic acid bacteria, which help improve intestinal immunity, has greatly increased. However, as interest has increased, misinformation is also easily accessible. Today, I’m going to take a look at some of the important things and take the time to correct any mistakes.

Probiotics? Prebiotics?

First, let’s start with a glossary of terms. When talking about lactic acid bacteria, there are probiotics and prebiotics that are always indispensable. These two terms are also widely used in advertising. However, there are not many experts who clearly explain the meaning.

Probiotics refers to the lactic acid bacteria themselves. Lactobacillus originally meant only Lactobacillus among probiotics, which are non-pathogenic beneficial bacteria. Currently, all probiotics, including Bifidobacterium, are called lactic acid bacteria.

Representative examples include Lactobacillus casei, L.acidophilus, L.bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium longum, B.bifidum, B.Actiregularis, and L.rhamnosus. There are many other types of lactic acid bacteria.

On the other hand, prebiotics means dietary fiber that can be food for lactic acid bacteria. Prebiotics can increase the intestinal survival rate of lactic acid bacteria when taken together with probiotics. There are also products made by mixing probiotics and prebiotics, which are called synbiotics. Prebiotics are ineffective if the amount is too small, and conversely, too much can cause side effects such as abdominal discomfort.

Is the higher the lactic acid bacteria content, the better?

To begin with, the content of lactic acid bacteria in the products we encounter on the market is already high enough. The average daily intake of lactic acid bacteria recommended by research institutes is 1 to 10 billion. A small yogurt drink that can be easily seen on the market contains more than 20 billion of lactic acid bacteria, and yogurt that is scooped contains more than 50 billion. Health functional food or over-the-counter medicines made for the purpose of supplementing lactic acid bacteria from the beginning have higher lactobacillus content.

There is one thing to point out here. That is the difference between the input bacteria and the guaranteed bacteria. When a product contains tens of billions of lactic acid bacteria, it refers to the input bacteria. Simply put, it refers to the number of lactic acid bacteria contained in a product.

The lactic acid bacteria consumed in this way are largely lost through the digestive process. So what we need to look at is the number of lactic acid bacteria that survive to the intestine, which is called guaranteed bacteria. When choosing a lactic acid bacteria product, it is the guaranteed bacteria that you should pay attention to.

Are there any side effects of lactic acid bacteria?

Lactic acid bacteria are also found in fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi. So, many people think that lactobacillus has no side effects.

Lactic acid bacteria can also cause problems. In particular, lactic acid bacteria can cause fatal sepsis for those whose immunity is weakened by chemotherapy or taking immunosuppressive drugs. If an immunocompromised person consumes a lactobacillus product and develops suspicious symptoms such as high fever, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, vomiting, and blisters, they should immediately stop taking the product and consult a doctor.

Probiotic products can also cause allergic reactions such as acne or psoriasis. It is not uncommon for symptoms such as diarrhea or abdominal pain to occur due to a change in the proportion of normal intestinal flora after ingestion of lactic acid bacteria. These usually improve with time, but if symptoms do not improve, you should stop taking probiotics and see a doctor.

Would a famous company product be good?

Another stereotype about probiotics is the belief that well-known brands of probiotics are better. So, companies that manufacture lactobacillus health functional food put a lot of effort into advertising to raise their awareness.

However, most of the famous lactobacillus health functional foods on the market take lactic acid bacteria from raw material companies, package them, and sell them under their own brand. This is why you should look at the raw material company rather than the brand when choosing a probiotic product. If it is a product that clearly discloses the raw material supplier, it means that it is confident enough, so it will be more reliable.

Is it important when to eat lactobacillus products?

Once you’ve chosen your probiotics, you need to know how to consume them correctly. In fact, the optimal intake time of lactic acid bacteria is a subject of divided opinions even among doctors. Some recommend taking it on an empty stomach before the digestive juices are secreted, while others claim that taking it 1-2 hours after eating prevents loss of lactic acid bacteria.

However, one thing is clear: once you have made up your mind to take lactobacillus products, whether before or after meals, taking them steadily is beneficial to your health. When lactic acid bacteria enter the body, they are exposed to stomach acid and bile acid before reaching the intestines, and a significant amount is inevitably lost. Although there is some variation, it is known that it decreases rapidly after 3 days of intake. So, it needs to be constantly replenished.

Are lactic acid bacteria effective in improving constipation?

You may have heard at least once in TV or newspaper advertisements that lactic acid bacteria are effective for constipation. The advertising model is holding a lactobacillus drink in one hand and showing a satisfied expression, saying that she had a cool bowel movement. On the product packaging, there is also a phrase such as ‘constipation relieving effect’. Because of these advertisements, many people take ‘lactic acid bacteria = constipation improvement food’ as common sense.

One shocking fact here. Lactic acid bacteria do not help improve constipation. Lactic acid bacteria prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the intestines and help improve immunity and intestinal health, but constipation is affected by the motility of the large intestine and the hardness of stool, and is not related to each other. Good quality dietary fiber and sufficient water intake are the most basic and key to improving constipation.

However, we often hear stories of people drinking lactobacillus drinks and relieving constipation. How did that happen? Two main reasons can be considered. For one thing, lactose remaining in yogurt, a dairy product, has caused lactose intolerance, resulting in mild diarrhea. The second is the effect of the separately added dietary fiber, not the lactic acid bacteria themselves. Both have nothing to do with the effect of the lactic acid bacteria themselves.

Take-home Message

Lactobacillus is not a panacea. There is also the risk of side effects. However, in the overheated lactobacillus-related market, it is difficult to find people who talk about such truths. This is why, as a consumer, we need wisdom to filter out exaggerated advertisements and choose wisely. I hope today’s article will be of some help to you in choosing a lactobacillus product.

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